By: Yossi Melman
A London coroner conducting the official investigation into the death of Egyptian Mossad agent Dr. Ashraf Marwan is expected to announce his findings on Wednesday.
The inquest at London’s City of Westminster Coroner’s Court will try to determine whether Marwan died by suicide, accident or foul play. However, from comments made by the coroner Tuesday, the findings appear inconclusive.
Photo by: Archive
Marwan, the son-in-law of the late Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser, was found dead in June 2007 after a fall from his fourth-floor apartment in Carlton House Terrace in London.
Marwan’s widow gave an interview Sunday in which she said Israel’s Mossad spy 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.
However, after the official investigation got underway on Monday, none of Marwan’s family members made the claim that Mossad was behind his death.
The coroner, William Doleman, heard testimony from Marwan’s family, the doctors who conducted the autopsy, investigating police officers and his business associates.
Doleman said he requested that the Israeli and American embassies send representatives to attend the investigation, but neither country did. Egypt, meanwhile, dispatched it consul.
Ashraf Marwan (L) with his new wife Moni Nasser, shaking hands with his new father in law, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1966.
Photo by: AP
One of those associates, who was present in an apartment facing Marwan’s at the time of his death, told the coroner he saw the Egyptian doctor climb the windowsill and jump to his death. The family attorney, however, countered that testimony by saying the associate, who was employed by Marwan, was prompted by hostility toward Marwan and his family.
One of Marwan’s sons, Ahmed, testified that he never heard his father talk about suicide, an act that contradicts his father’s values and beliefs.
A doctor that assisted in the autopsy, however, said traces of alcohol were detected in the victim’s remains.
The coroner also heard testimony from Israeli historian Dr. Aharon Bregman, a London resident who met with Marwan and had tried to persuade him to co-author the Egyptian’s memoir.
Bregman received three short phone calls from Marwan prior to his death to schedule a meeting that was to take place on the day of Marwan’s death.
According to police, Marwan had written a memoir, the transcript for which his family said has disappeared.
Meanwhile, Israeli researcher and historian Dr. Uri Bar-Yosef, who is currently working on a book about the Marwan affair, said that based on material he has seen, he is convinced Marwan was not working as a double agent, but was one of Israel’s best spies.
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.
Marwan’s 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.