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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Accused nuclear spy stuns Cairo court

An accused nuclear spy stunned a Cairo court today by praising Israel for its advanced technology and claiming that the documents he passed on to Israel were too outdated to harm Egyptian security.

Mohammed Sayed Saber, 35, a nuclear engineer with Egypt's atomic agency, is charged with stealing secret documents and giving them to the Mossad in exchange for $17,000.
"I don't hide my admiration of Israel ... It has reached a very high technological and scientific level," Saber said in court. "To seek to benefit from Israel scientific expertise, is not shameful or wrong ... They are a very organized and pragmatic society with definite goals, unlike chaotic societies."

"I don't have animosity toward the Israeli people, why should I? The fact that we had wars against Israel doesn't mean that we remain enemies forever," added Saber, who has never visited the Jewish state.

Saber's pro-Israeli speech was so unusual that Judge Mohammed Reda Shwakat, presiding over the three-judge panel at south Cairo state security court, called him from the defendant's cage to the bench where he then questioned him for almost four hours in the presence of three defense lawyers.

The hearings were adjourned till June 9. Saber, who faces up to 25 years in jail on espionage charges, did not enter a plea Tuesday.


Saber said that he was contacted by what he thought was a Japanese multinational firm to which he gave "old and invaluable documents that don't present danger to Egyptian national interests."

But later, after growing suspicions of the firm, Saber informed the Egyptian Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he was been working while on sabbatical from the atomic agency since 2000, about his actions.

In 1999, Saber allegedly asked the Israeli embassy in Cairo for a grant to pursue his PhD in nuclear science, but was told by Egyptian intelligence not to go to the embassy again.

"I was hoping to take the chance I deserve like everybody else, as I was subjected to oppression and suppression (at work)," Saber said in court. "I'm not looking for a villa, car or money, but I have a scientific mind, I wanted to develop that and change the face of history."

"I'm innocent, I didn't do anything that would harm my country, God knows that," he told media from behind bars during a break.

One of Saber's defense lawyers, Adel Aziz, said he believed in his client's innocence as he had alerted the Egyptian authorities about his actions. The defense team asked that a committee be set up to review the relevance and value of the documents Saber passed on.
This admiration of Israel from Arab countries is getting contagious.


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