Britain opens probe into death of Egyptian Mossad spy
Family of Ashraf Marwan blames Israel for alleged assassination of former agent.
An official investigation into the death of Egyptian Mossad agent Dr. Ashraf Marwan will begin today in London. The investigation, to be conducted by a coroner, follows a request made by Marwan's family, who blame the Mossad for his assassination.
Marwan's widow, the daughter of former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, gave an interview Sunday in which she said the Israeli espionage agency was responsible for her husband's death.
In an interview in The Observer, and in an apparent attempt to influence the results of the investigation and public opinion, Mona Nasser claimed that her husband had told her that his life was in danger on three occasions during the four years that preceded his death.
The last time he allegedly said his life was in danger was nine days before his death, in June 2007, when his body was found on the sidewalk near their London home.
"He turned to me and said: 'My life is in danger. I might be killed. I have a lot of different enemies,'" Mona Nasser said. "He knew they were coming after him. He was killed by Mossad."
It is clear from her comments overall, however, that her husband may have been killed by other parties.
The investigators will invite police officers who have examined the killing during the past three years, as well as Marwan's business partners and family. Dr. Aharon Bregman, an Israeli historian living in London and who was supposed to meet with Marwan before his death, will also be asked to meet with the investigator. Bregman had been in touch with Marwan via telephone and had met with him once before.
In 1969, Marwan went to the Israeli embassy in London to offer his services as an agent for the Mossad, but his offer was rejected. He went back some time later, and after an examination, the Mossad decided to use him. He proved to be a very valuable asset with a great deal of information, with his access to secrets following the death of his father-in-law.
Marwan served as special adviser to Anwar Sadat and was privy to many of the important decisions the Egyptian president and his senior officials made.
The most important piece of information Marwan relayed happened during a special meeting with the head of Mossad at the time, Zvi Zamir, at a London hotel. During that meeting, held on a Friday night, between the 5th and 6th of October 1973, Marwan told the Mossad chief "war will breakout tomorrow" - and he meant the Yom Kippur War.
Zamir passed on the information via telephone to the Israeli leadership. In return for his services, Marwan received about one million dollars from Mossad. He continued to stay in touch with his handlers for a number of years after the war, but by then the information he had to share was less valuable and there was no need for his services.
This stemmed, in great part, from the fact that he had retired from public service in Egypt, had moved to London and had become a wealthy international businessman.
His identity was kept under wraps and only a handful of people knew his role for the Mossad. At one point in the 1990s, the head of Military Intelligence during the Yom Kippur War, Eli Zeira, leaked Marwan's identity to journalists and historians in Israel and abroad. Zeira argued that Marwan had been a double agent who tricked Israel.
Zeira argued that Marwan had failed to inform the Mossad that the war would start at 2 P.M., and that Israel was expecting the war to start at 6 P.M; in this way, Zeira sought to shake off responsibility for his failure to foresee the 1973 war. This led to a series of exchanges in which Zamir and Zeira blamed each other, along with a libel suit each intelligence officer aimed at the other.
Mossad chief Meir Dagan intervened in the case and brought the matter to private arbitration before retired Supreme Court Justice Theodore Or, who heard many witnesses.
In April 2007, Or concluded that there was no libel in Zamir's claims against Zeira, and that Marwan had not been a double agent.