CAIRO (AFP) -Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Monday broke the official silence surrounding an alleged double agent who died mysteriously in London last week, saying he was a patriot but refusing to reveal more.
“Ashraf Marwan was a loyal patriot,” Mubarak was quoted as saying by the state news agency MENA the day after the billionaire son-in-law of former Egyptian president Gamel Abdel Nasser was laid to rest in Cairo.
“He did patriotic things that it is not yet time to reveal, but he was indeed an Egyptian patriot. He spied for no-one,” Mubarak said.
Marwan, 63, who was reported to have acted as a secret agent for Israel’s Mossad spy agency during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, fell to his death from the balcony of his fifth-floor apartment in London on Wednesday.
According to rumours circulating in Cairo, he either committed suicide or was assassinated. An inquest into Marwan’s death, which Scotland Yard described as “unexplained”, opened in London on Friday and adjourned until August 15.
The Times newspaper of London reported that Marwan offered his services to Israel in 1969 and, in the ensuing years, provided information on Egypt and the Arab world that senior Israeli ministers would describe as priceless.
But many in Israel believe he was a double agent, including Major General Eli Zeira, chief of Israeli’s military intelligence at the time of the Yom Kippur war in 1973.
On October 6, 1973, Egypt and Syria launched surprise attacks on Israel on the holiest day on the Jewish calendar to recover territory lost in the 1967 war, although they were again defeated.
Zeira said that Marwan, using the code name Babel, had met Mossad agents in London and had told them the Yom Kippur attack would take place at 6 pm instead of midday, when the war began.
“What has been published on the deceased Ashraf Marwan, that he told Israel about the timing of the October 1973 war, is unfounded,” Mubarak said.
Mubarak, who commanded Egypt’s air force during the 1973 war, said he had no doubt about Marwan’s patriotism and “I knew the details of what he was doing to serve his country as they happened.”
Despite its final outcome, the initial victories of the 1973 war provided a significant boost to the Arab mood after the devastating defeats of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Following his death, Israel’s Maariv newspaper said of Marwan that “Mossad was the victim of a double agent who ridiculed it.”
A coroner’s inquest into Marwan’s death, which Scotland Yard described as “unexplained”, was opened in London on Friday and swiftly adjourned until August 15.
“We are following the enquiry to know the truth about exactly what happened,” Mubarak said.