Leading British universities have been accused of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in Egypt in pursuit of opening campuses under the country’s authoritarian regime.

More than 200 prominent academics and others in the UK university sector have signed a letter to the British Guardian newspaper opposing the collaboration against the backdrop of unanswered questions about the abduction and murder of the Cambridge PhD student Giulio Regeni.

Regeni was an Italian Cambridge University graduate who was abducted and tortured to death in Egypt where he was based. He had been researching Egypt's independent trade unions. The incident caused a diplomatic stand-off between Cairo and Rome.

The outrage of the academics follow the advocacy group Universities UK promoting partnerships between British higher education institutions and their Egyptian counterparts through a series of memorandums of understanding.

Opposition to the plans follows a high-profile delegation to Cairo in June by 11 UK universities, supported by the British government.

The British academics write in their protest letter: “We question the wisdom and legitimacy of this move to do business-as-usual with an authoritarian regime that systematically attacks research, education and academic freedom.”

International rights group accuse the Egyptian authorities of implementing one of the most repressive regimes in the North African country’s history.

- African News Agency (ANA)