An Italian newspaper has revealed that a Cambridge University student found dead in Cairo worked for it as a freelance writer and had told one of the paper's editors that he feared for his life.

The Communist Il Manifesto said on Thursday that Giulio Regeni, 28, wrote several stories on workers' rights and underground workers' unions in Egypt using a pseudonym.

The newspaper said it would publish Regeni's last report on Friday, and would give more details on the last hours of his life. Regenia was a native of the northeastern Italian city of Udine.

Reports late on Thursday said Matteo Renzi, Italy's prime minister, called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to demand that Regeni's body be immediately repatriated, and Italian experts be given access to the investigation of his death.

Renzi was the first Western leader to receive Sisi after the 2013 overthrow of his civilian predecessor, Mohamed Morsi.

Thesis on trade unions

Regeni was in Cairo doing research for his doctoral thesis on trade unions in Egypt, and was last seen on January 25, when he left his home with the intention of travelling by metro to meet a friend in the city centre.

Initial reports said Regeni's body bore signs of torture including cigarette-burn marks near the eyes and feet.

Ahmed Nagi, Egyptian prosecutor, who leads the investigation team on the case, said it appeared to have been a "slow death". 

The death has jeopardised relations between Italy and Egypt, with Michele Valensise, Italy's foreign ministry director-general, "urgently" summoning the Egyptian ambassador, Amr Mostafa Kamal Helmy.

In London, Paolo Gentiloni, Italian foreign minister, met his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry, and the two "agreed to increase cooperation and coordination between the Egyptian and  Italian sides to determine the cause of the death", according to the Egyptian foreign ministry.

Gentiloni earlier said Italy needed to be involved in the investigation "because we want the truth to come out, every last bit of it.

"We owe that much to a family that has been stricken in an irreparable way and, at the very least, has the right to know the truth."

Federica Guidi, Italy's economic development minister, who was in Cairo when Regeni's body was discovered, cancelled the final day of a trade mission involving around 60 Italian companies.

Hours earlier she had urged Sisi to intervene personally in the investigation into Regeni's disappearance, underlining the potential for the case to disrupt normally close ties between Rome and Cairo.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies