Mubarak says Nasser’s son-in-law not spy

Egypt’s president has denied that the son-in-law of the country’s late leader Gamal Abdel Nasser was a spy, the state-run news agency reported Monday, breaking the state’s silence soon after the man’s death.Ashraf Marwan, 62, was buried in Cairo Sunday amid lingering mystery over his strange demise and alleged role as a double agent who tricked Israel into complacency at the start of the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

“He (Marwan) was a real Egyptian nationalist and was not a spy to any party at all,” Egypt’s Middle East News Agency (MENA)  quoted Mubarak as telling newspaper editors Sunday night on his way back to Cairo after attending the African Union summit in Ghana.

Mubarak’s comments were Egypt’s first official statement on Marwan’s role in the 1973 war, which began when Egypt and Syria launched a sneak attack on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur.

But Mubarak heightened the mystery around Marwan by saying now was not the time to reveal his actions during the war.

“Marwan was patriotic, loyal to his country and carried out patriotic tasks, but the time is not ripe now to unveil such acts,” MENA quoted Mubarak as saying.

Mubarak confirmed that former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat awarded Marwan Egypt’s highest honour for his actions during the war, reported the state-owned Al Ahram newspaper Monday.

The controversy around Marwan reignited Wednesday after he plunged to his death from the balcony of his luxury apartment building in London.

MENA, without citing sources, said investigators initially believed Marwan accidentally fell from the balcony in the affluent Mayfair neighbourhood. But Al Ahram reported Sunday that investigators were not ruling out murder, also without detailing how it knew.

To back up his claims, Mubarak said there will be an official investigation into the spying allegations that will also look into Marwan’s mysterious death, according to Al Ahram.

British police said Monday they were not investigating Marwan’s death.

“(The death) is considered non-suspicious,” a Scotland Yard spokesman said, speaking anonymously in line with police policy. “It’s no longer a matter for us.” Marwan received a high-profile funeral Sunday attended by Mubarak’s son, Gamal, senior government officials and some of Egypt’s most powerful businessmen.

He was an assistant to Nasser before marrying his daughter in the 1960s and becoming head of Egypt’s giant government-owned military industry complex.

Marwan became a wealthy businessman and faded from the headlines until several years ago, when Israeli media reported that he had been a double agent during the 1973 war. According to the Israeli media reports, Marwan first walked into the Israeli embassy in London in 1969 and volunteered to give information, but was turned down. He later was allegedly recruited by the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad.

Maj. Gen Eli Zeira, who was fired from his position as head of Israel’s military intelligence over the country’s failure to predict the 1973 Arab attack, said in a 1993 book that Israel was caught by surprise because it was led astray by a double agent he did not identify. But Marwan’s name subsequently was released to the press.

The head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency at the time of the war, Zvi Zamir, accused Zeira in 2004 of leaking the agent’s name to journalists in an attempt to explain his own failures.

Zeira hit back by suing Zamir for libel. But the case ended just last month when a court confirmed Zeira leaked Marwan’s identity.

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