The father of an Egyptian arrested Friday by Syrian authorities after taking pictures of protests and charged with spying for Israel denied accusations hurled at his son and rejected confessions he allegedly made on Syrian T.V.
“My son Mohamed has never been to Israel in his entire life and his main hobby is travelling around and taking picture,” engineer Abu Bakr Radwan, the suspect’s father, told AlArabiya.net Sunday in a phone interview from Damascus.
Radwan, who lives in Cairo, said he was taken by surprise when he knew that his son Mohamed was arrested on espionage charges and that he appeared on Syrian state T.V. and admitted to spying for Israel.
“They said Mohamed visited Jerusalem through Jordan and was to meet a friend in the West Bank, but when he the meeting was put off he stayed in East Jerusalem then went to West Jerusalem where he started his spying activities.”
Radwan hurried to Damascus immediately after hearing the news and is planning to head Monday to the Syrian Interior Ministry in the company of the Egyptian ambassador in Damascus to ask for permission to see his son and learn the details of the case.
“I am hoping the Syrian authorities would release my son in the coming two days,” he concluded.
According to the alleged confessions he made on Syrian T.V., Mohamed, a 32-year-old petroleum engineer born in the United States, met a group of people in Jerusalem and they introduced him to a Colombian man via the internet.
The Colombian offered to give Mohamed 100 Egyptian Pounds (approximately 17 U.S. dollars) for each picture he takes of protests in Damascus, where he was in fact arrested while shooting scenes of the protests at the Umayyad Mosque in the Syrian capital.
Mohamed added in his confession that when he was leaving Israel for Jordan, Israeli security officers asked him if he wanted them to stamp his American passport and he asked them not to since he would be heading to Damascus after Jordan.
Radwan insisted that his son’s confessions were extracted under duress since Mohamed comes from a rich family and therefore it is not logical that he got tempted by an amount as meager as 20 dollars per picture.
Mohamed, his father added, has lived in Damascus for the past 10 months because he is the manager of the Syrian branch of a Petro Graphic, a company owned by Radwan and other partners.
Radwan’s other son Tarek, who lives in Virginia and is doing his masters on international relations at George Washington University, was astonished to hear of the confessions and found the charges nonsensical.
“You Tube and satellite channels transmit everything live to the audience. Who would need those pictures?” he told AlArabiya.net in a phone interview.
Tarek, who is two years older than Mohamed, said that photography and travel are his brother’s favorite hobbies and that he spent a whole year touring Latin America on his own expense.
“Does he need someone to pay him 17 dollars for a picture?”
Ambassador Mohamed Abdel Hakam, deputy foreign affairs minister for consular affairs, said the Egyptian embassy in Damascus contacted the Syrian ministries of interior and exterior to know the details of Mohamed Radwan’s case.
The Egyptian ambassador in Damascus also called the Syrian authorities to make sure Mohamed is well-treated and that all his rights are preserved.
Hours later, the espionage charges against Mohamed were dropped, yet he remains in custody.
(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)