A "paranoid belief" that Ouda Tarabin was an Israeli spy is compelling Egyptian authorities to hold the Beduin man in prison despite pressure from Jerusalem and Egyptian prisoners in Israel on Cairo to broker a prisoner-swap deal that would see his release, Tarabin's lawyer charged on Thursday.

"We have no idea what the charges are against [Tarabin]," Yitzhak Melzer, the lawyer representing Tarabin, told Israel Radio.

"We never saw the indictment, testimonies or the evidence" that put him in jail, he explained.

Despite countless requests by the Foreign Ministry to Egypt to release the official case against Tarabin, Cairo has refused to comply, Melzer said, adding that he "has no doubt [Egypt's] story is incorrect."

"I know there was great pressure by Israel to free him along with Grapel," Melzer explained, referring to the dual US-Israeli citizen Ilan Grapel who was held in Egyptian prison last year over espionage charges, but released after serving less than five months in prison. Tarabin was arrested in 2003, and has been "wasting away the best years of his life" since, Melzer said.

A number of Egyptian security prisoners serving time in Israeli jails have begun a hunger strike not to put pressure on Israel, but rather on their own government to secure a deal with Jerusalem that would exchange them for Tarabin.

Egyptian media claimed over the weekend that Israeli officials were on the brink of signing a deal with Egypt in which Tarabin would be freed in exchange for 63 Egyptian prisoners in Israel.

Neither Cairo nor Jerusalem have officially responded to the reports.

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