LONDON: The death of a wealthy Egyptian businessman suspected of international espionage remains unexplained, a British coroner ruled Wednesday, saying there was no evidence to support verdicts of either suicide or unlawful killing.
Ashraf Marwan, 63, fell from the balcony of his apartment in an exclusive London street in June 2007. A coroner’s inquest was held to determine whether he died by suicide, accident or foul play.
Coroner William Dolman handed down an "open verdict" Wednesday, meaning it has not been proven how Marwan died. But he said there was no evidence to support either suicide or unlawful killing.
"We simply don’t know the facts, despite careful investigation," he told the court. "There are many unanswered questions."
"Did he jump or did he fall? Here the evidence does not provide a clear answer," he added.
Dolman said claims about Marwan’s death involved "the murky and secretive world of espionage."
However, he said, "we must restrict ourselves to a fact-finding exercise and not indulge in the luxury of mere speculation."
In Britain, inquests must be held any time someone dies unexpectedly, violently or of unknown causes. The goal is to determine the facts rather than to blame any individuals.
Marwan was the son-in-law of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser and a trusted aide to Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat.
Historians and intelligence agents have accused Marwan of being an Israeli spy who passed on vital information before the 1973 Yom Kippur War — or of being a double agent loyal to Egypt.
During two days of testimony, the court heard from Marwan’s friends, family, and business associates.
Mona Nasser, Marwan’s widow, told the inquest her husband had never spoken of suicide, but had expressed fears he might be killed.
On Wednesday, she told reporters outside court that she still believed foul play was involved.
"The truth will come out," Nasser said. "They are still discovering things about Tutankhamun."
Nasser said she welcomed the coroner’s ruling that her husband had not killed himself because he would have considered suicide to be shameful. She said he would not have "rested in his grave unless this shame had been taken away from him."
Marwan moved to London after the 1981 assassination of Sadat and kept a low profile as a wealthy businessman.
In 2002, he was named in a book by Israeli historian Ahron Bregman as a spy who had tipped off Israel about the coming Yom Kippur invasion.
Israeli media later reported that he had in fact been a double agent who fed misleading information to the Israelis about the war, which began when Egypt and Syria launched a two-pronged attack on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. Israel was nearly defeated, but ultimately prevailed.
Marwan was decorated by the Egyptian state for his role in the war. His funeral in Cairo was attended by high-profile mourners, including President Hosni Mubarak’s son, Gamal.