Egypt agreed on Monday to release New Yorker Ilan Grapel, 27, a dual Israeli-US
citizen who has been in jail on espionage charges since June 12.
with the help of the United States, reached a deal with Egypt for the young
man’s freedom, in exchange for the release of 25 non-security Egyptian prisoners
held in Israeli jails. Three of the prisoners are minors.RELATED:
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Cabinet is likely to meet Wednesday to approve the deal.
family lives in Queens, is a student at Emory Law School in Atlanta and has
served in the Israeli army.
He had gone to Cairo to work in a legal aid
Egypt accused Grapel of being an Israeli spy and inciting
protesters against Egypt’s military. Israel and the Grapel family have denied
News of his possible release first surfaced just before
Egypt helped broker a prisoner- exchange deal between Israel and Hamas to free
Once the cabinet gives its approval, the prisoner swap is
expected to take place on Thursday, an Israeli official in Jerusalem and an
Egyptian intelligence source in Cairo told Reuters.
US Rep. Gary Ackerman
(D-New York) said, “Ilan’s release is terrific news.” Grapel had interned in
Ackerman’s office and his family lives in the politician’s district in
Ackerman had actively lobbied for Grapel’s release and had
personally contacted the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the prime
minister of Israel and the US State Department. Ackerman thanked officials in
Egypt, Israel and the US for their efforts on Ilan’s behalf.
be more relieved and gratified that Ilan will finally be freed and that he will
soon be reunited with his family. For four long months, we worked tirelessly to
win Ilan’s release, and at last this long and terrible ordeal that Ilan and his
loved ones have been forced to endure is almost over.
beginning, I was assured by the highest levels in Israel that in no way did Ilan
have anything to do with espionage, the Mossad or any other type of spy
Ilan is a wonderful young man who loves Egypt and the Egyptian
culture. He’s a person deeply committed to the cause of humanity and bringing
people together, and just found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time,”
“This is a great day for Ilan and his family and we share
in the joy and relief that they are no doubt feeling” said Ackerman. “We cannot
wait for Ilan to return home to Queens so that he and his parents can finally
wrap their arms around each other.”
Egypt’s MENA news agency reported the
exchange is scheduled to take place “over the next two days.” On Saturday, a
high-level Egyptian official told MENA the swap would include “between 20 and 30
Throughout last week conflicting reports emerged over the
scope of the deal, with some Egyptian news outlets reporting Israel would
release as few as 19 prisoners, and others predicting all 81 Egyptians held in
Israel would be freed.
Egyptian media had reported that the three
children to be released in the deal had been acquitted of illegally crossing
into Israel to sell cigarettes, but had remained imprisoned after prosecutors
appealed the ruling.
News of the impending deal has drawn comprehensive
coverage in Egypt, a country engulfed in turmoil since president Hosni Mubarak’s
ouster in February. In addition to Mubarak’s ongoing trial, preparations are
underway for Egyptians’ first election in decades and sectarian violence has
raised tension between Muslims and Coptic Christians.
On Sunday, Egypt’s
state-run daily Al-Akhbar
daily ran the lead headline, “Imminent agreement
between Egypt and Israel regarding Ilan the spy.”
On Monday, conflicting
reports emerged over whether a second Israeli citizen would be included in the
deal: Ouda Tarabin – a Beduin shepherd held for over a decade on spying charges
after illegally entering Egypt.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal
Palmor said Israel is “doing its best” to ensure Tarabin’s release.