2 February 1944
|Died||2 October 2007
London, United Kingdom
|Known for||Possible Egyptian or Israeli Spy|
|Spouse(s)||Mona Gamal Abdel Nasser|
Ashraf Marwan (Arabic: أشرف مروان) (2 February 1944 – 27 June 2007) was an Egyptian billionaire and alleged spy for Israel, or possibly an Egyptian double agent. Marwan was married to Mona Gamal Abdel Nasser, daughter of former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Early life and education
Marwan served as an assistant to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser during the 1960s. He was later made chief of staff to the next Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Being a leading Arab industrialist, Marwan became a business partner of Mohamed al-Fayed, owner of Harrod's department store.
In September 2002, the London-based Israeli historian Ahron Bregman published a book containing allegations that Marwan was Israel's "master spy" in Cairo. In a subsequent interview with the Egyptian Al-Ahram, Bregman again named Marwan as Israel's disputed source.
Despite these allegations having being made publicly, Marwan appeared to avoid any retaliation from Egypt. On 6 October 2004, two years after being named as a spy, Israeli intelligence officers observed Marwan being greeted warmly by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak; the only possible explanation, asserts Bregman, was that Marwan had been a double agent.
Marwan's relationship with Israeli intelligence was also revealed in a 2003 book by Howard Blum, who learned of Marwan's activities from the head of Israeli Military Intelligence during the Yom Kippur War, General Eli Zeira. According to Blum, Marwan first contacted Israel in 1969, when he handed Egyptian state documents to a London physician whose office had previously been used for a covert meeting between Israel and Jordan. Three days later, Marwan was approached by the Mossad while shopping in Harrods, and thereby began spying for Israel. Marwan would meet Mossad officers in a London safe-house, where he would be paid £50,000 each visit. He would often meet directly with Zvi Zamir, head of the Mossad, and Marwan's conversations were taped and transcribed for the Israeli Prime Minister.
In April 1973, Marwan warned the Mossad that Egypt and Syria would launch a surprise attack against Israel on May 15; it proved a false warning, and Israel lost $35 million while under the subsequent heightened state of alert. Marwan again met with Zamir on the eve of the Yom Kippur War, warning that Egypt and Syria were once again preparing to attack at sunset. This warning was not heeded by the Israeli Cabinet, and it did turn out to be somewhat correct: The Egyptians actually attacked around 2:00 p.m., giving them four "head start" hours. Despite this history, it remains unclear whether Marwan was an Israeli spy or an Egyptian double agent.
In an interview with Lt. Gen. Saad El Shazly for the PBS documentary The 50-Year War: Israel and The Arabs, Shazly indicated that on 5 October 1973, he told Sadat, "Even if they [the Israelis] were to find out now [about the impending attack], I don't care". The fact that the Egyptians did not place much importance on Israeli knowledge of the attack at this point, coupled with the timing of Marwan's meeting with Zamir in London suggests that Marwan was indeed a double agent and was given the green light to inform the Israelis of the impending attack, probably to secure his status with the Israelis as a trusted and valuable source. Yet the extent and type of information given to the Israelis by Marwan up to that point was so crucial to Egypt that it's hard to imagine the Egyptians volunteering this information, even if it was meant to mislead the Israelis. This may, on the other hand, suggest that Marwan was merely spying for Israel.
Marwan died on 27 June 2007 at around 1 p.m. UTC+1 (British Summer Time) outside his flat in Carlton House Terrace, London. The cause of death was traumatic aortic rupture following a fall from the window of his fifth-floor apartment. News reports indicate that the Metropolitan Police Service increasingly believe Marwan was murdered, a belief also held by Marwan's eldest son, Gamal. Marwan's funeral in Egypt was led by Egypt's highest-ranked religious leader, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy, and attended by, amongst others, Gamal Mubarak, son of the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. According to President Mubarak, "Marwan carried out patriotic acts which it is not yet time to reveal." Following a case review in January 2008, the investigation was transferred to the Specialist Crime Directorate, both because of its public nature and because the shoes Marwan was wearing when he fell, key evidence in the case, had been lost.
One witness, who was on the third floor of a nearby building, told police that he saw two men "wearing suits and of Mediterranean appearance" appear on the balcony moments after Marwan's fall, look down, and then return inside the apartment. Police are also reported to have lost Marwan's shoes, which could hold clues on whether or not Marwan jumped from the balcony.
Marwan is the fourth Egyptian of note to die in London in a similar manner. The others, all of whom were involved in Egyptian politics between 1966 and 1971, are actress Suad Hosni; Egyptian ambassador to Britain Al-Leithy Nassif; and Ali Shafeek, secretary in the office of former Egyptian Vice President Abdel Hakim Amer.
Egyptian journalist Amr Ellissy conducted an investigation into Marwan's death for his documentary series Ekhterak, broadcast on Egyptian television in six episodes on the first anniversary of Marwan's death. Ekhterak was filmed in Marwan's London apartment and included interviews with his son, a witness, and acquaintances of Marwan. Ellissy published his book The Agent Babel in the Arabic language through Dar AlShorouq press, and it was launched on 2 February 2009.
- Kaufman, Uri (27 June 2007). "Spy or Double Agent? Israel's October Surprise". The Jewish Press. Retrieved 24 July 2008.
- "Nasser's son-in-law takes with himself mistery of his death and alleged role as double agent". Pravda. AP. 1 July 2007. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
- "Who Killed Ashraf Marwan?". International Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on 15 July 2007. Retrieved 15 July 2007.
- PBS The 50 Years War: Israel and the Arabs – part 2 on YouTube
- Rabinovich, Abraham (17 February 2011). "Our mysterious man on the Nile". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
- "U.K. police believe ex-Mossad agent murdered". Haaretz. Retrieved 15 July 2007.
- "Did he fall or was he pushed?". Spectator. Retrieved 18 August 2007.
- Syal, Rajeev (5 May 2008). "Yard probes billionaire spy's death". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 5 October 2008. Retrieved 5 October 2008.
- Syal, Rajeev (29 August 2007). "Evidence missing in 'spy' death-fall mystery". The Times (London). Retrieved 29 August 2007.
- "Egyptian Riddle". Private Eye (1267): 7. 23 July 2010.
- A report and video about Ashraf Marwan on the CBS News program 60 Minutes aired on May 11, 2009
- Article about the motives and personality of Ashraf Marwan