Egypt's public prosecution told investigators on Wednesday to exclude Italian prosecutors' accusations against four Egyptian policemen from case documents on the 2016 killing of an Italian student in Cairo.
The public prosecution's comments appeared intended to signal the officers are no longer considered suspects in Egypt and that Cairo does not want Italy to prosecute them.
Giulio Regeni, a postgraduate student at Britain's Cambridge University, disappeared in the Egyptian capital in January 2016. His body was found almost a week later and a postmortem examination showed he had been tortured before his death.
Egyptian police and Egyptian officials have denied any involvement in Regeni's killing.
But Italian prosecutors said on Dec. 10 they planned to charge four senior members of Egypt's security services whom they suspect of taking part in the "aggravated kidnapping" of Regeni. One of them also faces charges of "conspiracy to commit aggravated murder", they said.
They gave the four men 20 days to respond to the charges after which, they said, they would ask a judge to indict them.
In a statement on Wednesday, Egypt's public prosecution said "there is no point in launching a criminal case (over Regeni's torture and killing) ... due to the lack of knowledge of the perpetrator".
It said investigative authorities should "exclude what was attributed (by Italian prosecutors) to four officers ... from the papers in that incident."
Italy's foreign ministry described the Egyptian public prosecution's position as "unacceptable".
In a statement, it expressed confidence in the work of the Italian judiciary and said Italy would "continue to act in all forums, including the European Union, so that the truth about the barbaric murder of Giulio Regeni can finally emerge."
It urged Egypt's public prosecution to "share this need for truth" and cooperate with Italian prosecutors.
Egypt announced on Nov. 30 that it was temporarily suspending its investigation into the murder, saying it had reservations about the evidence Italy had compiled.
Intelligence and security sources told Reuters in 2016 that police had arrested Regeni outside a Cairo metro station and then transferred him to a compound run by Homeland Security. The police have denied this and Egyptian officials have denied any involvement in Regeni's killing.
Regeni, 28, disappeared on Jan. 25, 2016, the fifth anniversary of the start of the 2011 uprising that ended the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak.
Italian and Egyptian investigators had been working together to try to solve the crime. But Italian judicial sources told Reuters last year that Italy was frustrated by the slow pace of developments in Cairo and decided to press ahead with its own line of inquiry to try to move things forward.