A state security court sentenced an Egyptian nuclear engineer to life in prison Monday after convicting him of spying for Israel, a court official said. Mohammed Sayed Saber, 35, an employee with Egypt's atomic agency, had been charged with harming the country's national security by giving stolen documents to the Mossad in exchange for $17,000. Two others, one Japanese and one Irish, who were tried in absentia on spying charges also received life imprisonment, the court official said. Foreign Ministry spokesmen denied all links to the case, saying the accusations were baseless. They said the conviction was testament to the shortcomings of the Israel-Egypt peace accord, Israel Radio reported. The defendant appeared in a white prison jumpsuit, smiling and flashing a victory sign to the media, which crammed into the court room. After hearing the verdict, Saber remained calm, but his mother and wife broke into tears. The court session lasted less than five minutes. Heavy security forces were deployed inside and outside the courtroom, and dozens surrounded the wife and mother to block the media from speaking to them. Saber was arrested February 18 after he returned to Egypt from Hong Kong, where the prosecution has said he used to meet agents working for Israel. During the first court session, Saber stunned the judge by praising Israel's advanced technology and claimed he handed over outdated documents that posed no threat to Egyptian security. Saber has claimed that just before his arrest in February, he informed the Egyptian Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, of his actions. He had been in Saudi Arabia since 2000 on a sabbatical from the atomic agency. One of Saber's defense lawyers, Adel Aziz, said before that he believed in his client's innocence as he had alerted the Egyptian authorities about his actions.