Monday, September 7, 2009

Egyptian X-Files : The European Man who Was Found Dead Near Al-Azhar University

May be this file is not that 100% Egyptian , the only thing Egyptian for sure was the location of this real life John Le Carre` novel , but other than that we do not know for sure again if we have another role ,a vital role than this or not in the murder of that real life novel leading man : David Holden


David Holden , the star foreign correspondent in the Middle East of the  Sunday Times was murdered on the 7th of December 1977 in Cairo. It seems that when he was found , he did not have id papers, the British embassy was informed among other European embassies that unidentified European man was found dead on a sandy patch, littered with old newspapers, by the highway that ran beside the walls of Al-Azhar University. He had no id papers , a single small wound in his chest. Holden was identified by BBC Cairo correspondent then Bob Jobbins who knew that the Sunday Times correspondent had been executed when he saw the wound. According to the medical examiner Holden had been killed after 3 hours of leaving Cairo airport.I do not need to read the original file of murder to know that he was killed in another place and was dumped at that highway that ran besides the walls of Al-Azhar University aka Saleh Salem “ what a choice !!”

He was covering the grand shift of our regional policies back then as he was murdered just days before the famous Mena House convention.

What amazes me is that the murder of Evan is barely remembered in Egypt if we are going to speak about the enigmatic murders in Egypt with label “X”, it is not everyday a top foreign Mideast correspondent get killed in Egypt !!  May be during then the events of Mena house did not allow for any event to appear on the Egyptian scene.

I do not need to say that there were a considerable number of conspiracy theories on who killed Holden and why. With no doubt during that time , in fact in any time due to Holden’s work and relations , you will suspect immediately in intelligence agencies.

Because it happened in Cairo the accusation fingers were and are still pointed  to the Egyptian intelligence which according to the popular theory assassinated him by mistake !!  The theory says that the GIS had mistaken Holden for another British journalist : David Hirst, who had been blacklisted by Sadat regime then for his negative coverage ; mistakes , deadly mistakes happen for sure but I do not think that the GIS was that clumsy not to mention Hirst did not enter nor did he plan to visit Egypt during that specific period of time.

Still despite it happened in Cairo the accusation fingers were pointed to Tel Aviv. The Israeli Mossad has been accused of assassinating Holden using its femme fatal agents in a similar Russian execution style. Now the question why would the Mossad assassinate a British reporter in Cairo ??

Most theorists think about two possible motives :

1) Holden knew something while he was visiting in Israel and that thing should be kept secret.

2) Holden should be a role model for those Western reporters who were and are mad enough to be Pro-Palestinian !!

Honestly I do not buy that second reason because for one thing the murder of Holden did not stop those Western reporters to be so-called Pro-Palestinian at all. But what would Holden knew in Israel that should go with him to the grave ?? After all there were and are limits for foreign and even for local reporters to know.

The CIA was a suspect just like the Mossad, in fact it was suspect to be accomplice , the Mossad could not get Holden in Cairo after all as if its agents had been arrested in Cairo ,the Israeli delegation would not have entered Mena House hotel and thus the CIA would come and act on behalf of the Mossad. Again for the reasons above or at least the first presumed reason which should be so powerful to convince the CIA to to get involved in that dirty business.

The next in our suspects row was another Arab intelligence service : The Saudi intelligence. During that time Holden was working on his b9e3c0a398a01457b125b110.Lthird and last book that he was not meant to finish : The House of Saud. According to the theory the House of Saud did not like that  book among them and thus the Saudi intelligence did the dirty job and killed the British in Cairo. By the way two other reporters from the financial times completed the book which was published in 1982. The book was considered from the early sources in the West that chronicled the House of Saud since 1901 . Still it did not attack the House of Saud to the level that call for his murder.

Strangely the House of Saud and their intelligence were not the only people thought to be mad at the pen of Holden and what he wrote as the Greek intelligence stands in the same suspect row !! Yes Greek intelligence and it was not because  Holden favored the Turks but he wrote a book called “Greece Without Columns: The Making of the Modern Greeks” which was published in 1972, this book made Greece so angry due to its deep analysis in the history of Greece and its ethnicity. But to murder someone for something like that by the intelligence services !!

As we can see all these theories and all those suspects are not that conclusive , of course the Mossad and the CIA theories are the strongest among them not because the Mossad and the CIA but because I can’t believe he would be killed in that way by mistake or because he wrote 

The Sunday Times for a whole year from January  to December 197Sir Evans8 carried on an investigation but found nothing . The Sunday Times did not forget Holden nor did the former editor of Sunday Times Sir Harold Evans  who is sharing more information about the murder of his reporter in Cairo in his new book “My Paper Chase : True stories of vanished time”. In his book Sir Evans reveals interesting facts starting the secret life of Holden that no one knew back then to the fact that someone stole the telexes of the Sunday Times long enough to know not only Holden’s course in the Mideast but also the investigation team movement ending by the refusal of the CIA and FBI to share their Holden files with them after all those years.I may find Holden’s relations with the CIA more convincing than the involvement of the Egyptian intelligence or like what Sir Evans identifies as “Egyptian Police” along with the CIA. It is not an excuse that he was murdered in Egypt and the Egyptian police could not reach to anything that he was murdered by the Egyptian intelligence !! The murder of Holden in Egypt already put the blame and the eye on the GIS more than any secret service and this is why I believe the GIS would think twice before going in to something like with the American support.  This was intended to be a message , if his murder was intended to be more ambiguous, he would be dead in car crash or poisoned by a guava juice.

Still in the X-Files I can’t role out the possibility of anything , who knows !!

I can’t hide the fact that I am more amazed at the fantastic investigative journalism  of Sir Evans and his team whether in 1978 or through those years.

In the end I can say one thing the end of this real life John Le Carre` novel did not end in Cairo but rather started , it was then the world began to know the story of David Holden for real.

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  1. Excellent paper. I really appreciate your work. You are a great journalist.

  2. Please work on your English and stop thinking in Arabic while writing in English.
    Liked the post but I am not so sure about your analysis. Its not a secret that many journalists are also undercover agents for one or more security entities. Also, if it was the Egyptian Intelligence dnt u think they wouldve chosen another place? Its not a secret that intelligence entities execute assassinations away from their own countries as well and in many cases the chosen location is meant to insult the gov of that location.

  3. @Spoiled Egy , I respect your opinion but please read the post again especially the parts concerning the GIS before jumping to the conclusion that I am accusing it of murdering Holden
    P.S I do not think in Arabic while writing in English

  4. @Afrikasources , thank you so much

  5. It's good you brought this forgotten issue again. I read David Holden House of Saud very recently and I believe it's one of the amazing books about Saudi Arabia.

    If I'm not mistaken he was coming back from Saudi Arabia and some people were unexpectedly waiting for him in the airport and this was the last time he was seen before he was found dead.

    My take on this is that I believe he knew something concerning the Saudi royal family and maybe something about their ties with the US, and that's why he was executed.

  6. I don't know if it was just a coincidence that the execution of the Saudi princess Masha'il had just happened few months earlier and whether or not journalist David Holden had discovered the story and threatened to publish it.

  7. a very interesting & amazing article.Well done Zeinobia.

  8. Why are you so defensive? I simply pointed out what is clear in the way you write. You are clearly talented but you need to improve on your English and there is nothing wrong with that, its not your or my mother language.

    I didnt jump to any conclusions. You represented them as one of several who are thought to might have been behind that murder right? My question was meant to open a discussion as to whether this couldve been an attempt to frame the GIS as the ones responsible, that's all.

  9. I was born on December 6 , 1977 , one day before that incident, and I still remember the stir caused by it in the foreign media

  10. @Gee but as far as I remember those reporters who read his notes on the Saud Royal family did not find anything to be that offensive or critical , still everything is possible

    @Hazem, this is interesting connection , may be who knows

    @Spoiled Egy, regarding the GIS , with no doubt this could be an attempt to frame Egypt and GIS , you got someone like sir Evans accusing us of doing this dirty job

    @anonymous , yet it was not mentioned at all in Egypt
    You followed the case when you were a baby ;)


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