If Azzam Azzam could tell Ilan Grapel anything, it would be to relax and try not to worry.

Azzam, a Druse from Maghar in the Eastern Galilee imprisoned for eight years (1996-2004) in Egypt on charges of spying for Israel, spoke to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, two days after the 27- year-old Israeli-American was arrested by authorities in Cairo, who claimed he was working for the Mossad to foment unrest in Egypt.

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When asked what Grapel should expect in Egyptian custody, Azzam said, “They will deal with him like they do with anybody who is accused of being a spy. I don’t think they’ll necessarily abuse him, but if they want him to confess to something, they could do it.”

Azzam said that Grapel would be blindfolded and that if subjected to abuse it would be through the use of force and threats, and that if they want to get him to confess to something, “they would have no problem doing it, they are experts at this.”

Azzam did voice optimism for Grapel, though, saying that unlike himself, Grapel has the benefit of being an American-Israeli dual citizen, which would mean that the Americans should get involved on his behalf.

“If I could speak to him, I’d tell him not to worry, to just relax, you are an American and the Egyptians are not willing to give up on [US] aid.”

In November 1996, Azzam was sent to work at an Egyptian factory by the Israeli textile company he worked for. Egyptian authorities accused him of using women’s underwear soaked in invisible ink to relay intelligence to Israel, a charge he and Israel have denied ever since. Then-prime minister Ariel Sharon finally secured Azzam’s release in 2004, in exchange for six Egyptian students arrested in August that year for infiltrating Israel near Nitzana intending to commit a terrorist attack.

Azzam said that the most difficult time in captivity is at the beginning, when the captive has not been able to speak to anyone about his situation and no one knows what has happened to them.

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