insisted on Tuesday that any information he had divulged was already in the public domain and had been handed over with the blessing of the authorities. Mohammed Sayyed Saber, 35, acknowledged that he had supplied information about the Egyptian atomic energy authority where he worked to presumed agents of Israel’s Mossad overseas intelligence agency.
But he insisted that he had kept the Egyptian embassy in Saudi Arabia, where he lived, abreast of his activities and denied that they had amounted to espionage.
“All the information I gave was never with the intention of spying,” Saber told the first day of his trial before the High State Security Court.
“I was not a spy and the information I gave was not secret, it was all published on the Internet,” he said.
Prosecutors charge that Saber helped Israeli intelligence hack into the Egyptian atomic agency’s computer system between February 2006 and February this year, in exchange for 17,000 dollars and a laptop.
They allege that he also provided Israeli agents with classified documents to do with the Inshas nuclear research centre, north of Cairo.
Saber acknowledged that he had been approached by two presumed Israeli agents — one Irish, one Japanese — who are in absentia co-defendants in the trial, after publishing his CV online.
He admitted that in a series of contacts culminating in a visit to Hong Kong they had grilled him on aspects of Egypt’s nuclear programme, a line of questioning that he said had made him feel “uncomfortable” enough to contact the Egyptian authorities in late 2006.
The questions had focussed on whether Egypt had a uranium enrichment programme, what contacts it had with declared nuclear powers and what security arrangements were in force at the atomic energy authority.
“I contacted Ahmed Bahaa El Din, the official in charge of security at the Egyptian embassy in Saudi Arabia and told him everything,” Saber said.
“He asked me to write a detailed report and give it to him, which I did,” he told the court, adding that he had been asked to remain in touch with the presumed Israeli agents.
Saber admitted that in May 1999 he had visited the Israeli embassy in Cairo in the hope of getting a scholarship to study nuclear engineering at Tel Aviv University, but insisted that there had been nothing treacherous about that move.
“I was not appreciated in my job and hoped I could find better opportunities in Israel,” he said, adding that he was paid just 700 Egyptian pounds (120 dollars) a month.
Judge Mohammed Reda Shawkat adjourned the trial until June 9, when the court is expected to hear the Riyadh embassy security chief’s testimony.
In April, the same court sentenced an Egyptian with Canadian citizenship to 15 years in jail for spying for Israel.