An umbrella group of Jewish lawyers sent a letter this week to Egypt’s new justice minister calling for the release of imprisoned Israeli Beduin Ouda Tarabin, amid reports from Cairo of a deal underway that would free him in exchange for 83 Egyptians in Israeli jails.

The Egyptians held in Israel are members of Beduin tribes in Sinai. Israel Radio in Arabic reported that new Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy met in El-Arish last week with Sinai Beduin representatives and said that the men will be freed by Id al- Adha, which falls next month.

Winning the release of the 83 prisoners in return for Tarabin could be a way, it is believed, for Morsy to improve his relationship and that of the central government in Cairo with the Sinai Beduin.

The letter to Ahmed Mekki from the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists asked the Egyptian minister to intervene “in the name of justice.” The group enclosed a letter they sent to Morsy upon becoming president in July, to which they did not receive any response.

The letter to Morsy was sent through the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv.

“Recently we received a letter from the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention at the Human Rights Council where it was clearly stated that Mr. Tarabin’s incarceration, legal process and sentences are wrongful,” the letter read, calling for Egypt to release him immediately.

Tarabin, an Israeli Beduin shepherd, was arrested after illegally crossing the border into Egypt in late 1999, and sentenced to 15 years on charges of spying. Both Israel and Tarabin’s family have denied the charges.

American-Israeli student Ilan Grapel was released in October 2011 from Egyptian prison in exchange for 25 Egyptians in Israeli jails.

Efforts at the time to include Tarabin in that deal were unsuccessful.

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