The morgue where Regeni's body was taken
The morgue where Regeni's body was takenReuters

An Italian-British student who was reported missing in Egypt 10 days ago has been found dead with apparent torture marks on his body, after being dumped on the side of the highway that leads from Cairo to Alexandria.

Giulio Regeni, 28, who is from Italy but was studying at Cambridge University in Britain, was first reported missing on January 25.

Investigators said that his body bore cigarette burns and other signs of cruelty, and said they believed he had suffered a "slow death."

“All of his body, including his face” had bruises and cuts, Ahmed Nagi, who leads the investigation team on the case, told AP. He said Regeni was naked from the waist down. Reuters cited a source in the office of the Public Prosecutor who said that said prosecutors had inspected the body and found stab marks on Regeni's shoulders, and cuts on his ear and nose.

And yet, Alaa Azmi - the deputy head of criminal investigations in Giza - told AP earlier that initial investigations suggested that Regeni’s death was a road accident, and that preliminary forensic reports did not mention any burns.

“We have to wait for the full report by forensic experts. But what we know is that it is an accident,” Azmi said.

These contradictions have been making headlines in the Italian media and led the Italian foreign ministry to announce that it had urgently summoned the Egyptian ambassador over Regini’s death, and was seeking “full cooperation at all levels” from Egyptian authorities.

“Italy reiterates its call to the Egyptian authorities to immediately initiate a joint investigation with the participation of Italian experts and asks that the young Regeni’s body be repatriated to Italy as soon as possible,” the foreign ministry said.

Caught between police and protesters?

There was a heavy police presence in Cairo the day Regeni went missing because it was the fifth anniversary of the start of the "Arab Spring" uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak. In the days before the anniversary, security forces raided about 5,000 homes in Cairo, looking for possible troublemakers.

A friend of Regeni's said he had disappeared after leaving his home in Duqqi, an upper middle-class district in Cairo. He had gone to meet a friend near Tahrir Square, the center of the 2011 uprising.

All this triggered speculation that he may somehow have found himself between protesters and police.

Regeni was a PhD student at the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge, and was a visiting scholar at the American University in Cairo, where was pursuing a doctoral thesis on the Egyptian economy.

Last year, Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists abducted a Croatian man from the outskirts of Cairo and later beheaded him, but this scenario is seen as less likely because there was a heavy police presence in downtown Cairo when Regeni disappeared.