CAIRO Egypt's diplomatic spat with Italy centres around its refusal to share phone records with Rome as part of an investigation into the killing of Italian researcher Giulio Regeni, a senior Egyptian prosecutor said on Saturday.
Italy recalled its ambassador to Egypt for consultations on Friday saying Egyptian investigators on a visit to Rome had failed to provide the evidence needed to resolve the case of Regeni, whose body was found dumped in a roadside ditch nine days after he disappeared in the centre of Cairo.
Mustafa Suleiman, Egypt's assistant public prosecutor, said, a day after returning from Rome, that Egypt had complied with 98 percent of Italy's requests but could not hand over the telephone records as the Italian investigators wanted.
"This demand goes against the constitution and the law and is a crime for anyone who does it and we told them that the public prosecution is doing this itself (looking at phone records) and will give you the results," Suleiman told a news conference in Cairo.
Suleiman said the Egyptian investigators had also given the Italians surveillance camera they had asked for but that the relevant footage had automatically deleted.
Regeni, a 28-year-old PhD student who was researching the Egyptian labour movement, disappeared on Jan. 25, the anniversary of the start of 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule. His body was discovered on Feb. 3 and Egyptian investigators found signs of extensive torture.
Regeni's mother said last week her son's body was so disfigured she had only recognised him by the tip of his nose.
Human rights groups say the wounds bear the hallmarks of Egypt's security agencies and point to the scores of Egyptians who have disappeared over the past year. Egyptian officials have repeatedly denied involvement in his death but have struggled to offer an explanation to satisfy Italy.
Italian officials have ridiculed different explanations put forward by Egyptian investigators.
A police investigator initially suggested Regeni had died in a car accident and that there was no reason to suspect foul play.
Later, a witness said he had seen Regeni fighting with another Italian in central Cairo the night he disappeared. The witness was later discredited.
Last month, Egyptian police said Regeni's belongings, including his passport, were found in the possession of a criminal gang which specialised in dressing up as police and robbing foreigners. That explanation was dismissed by Italy.
(Additional reporting by Ali Abdelatti; Writing by Lin Noueihed; Editing by Alison Williams)
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