FM: Israeli-American arrested in Egypt isn't a spy

Lieberman says Ilan Grapel has "no connection to Israeli intelligence," claims arrest is a mistake, Egyptian paper: 6 arrests of "spies."

June 14, 2011 10:29
3 minute read.


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Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman denied on Tuesday that Ilan Grapel, a dual US and Israeli citizen arrested in Egypt on suspicion of espionage, is a spy.

"This is a student, perhaps a little strange or a little careless. He has no connection to any intelligence apparatus, not in Israel, not in the US and not on Mars," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Army Radio.

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"This is a mistake or strange behavior by the Egyptians. They have received all the clarifications and I hope the whole story will end quickly," Lieberman said.

On Sunday, Egyptian Judge Hesham Badawi of the supreme state security prosecution ordered Grapel to be detained for 15 days on suspicion of "spying on Egypt with the aim of harming its economic and political interests," MENA news agency reported, while claiming that Grapel worked for the Mossad.

The foreign minister refused to comment on reports circulating about Grapel and his connections to the Israeli intelligence network in Egypt, saying "I don't read newspapers, and therefore I don't know what the reports said."

Lieberman added that Israel is seeking to solidify relations with the new Egyptian government, saying that "we definitely want to institutionalize relations with the new regime in Egypt."

Also on Tuesday, the international non-profit The Israel Project confirmed that an intern named Ilan Grapel had worked for the organization, but said they could not confirm if that same Grapel was the alleged Israeli spy arrested in Egypt on Sunday.

“Someone named Ilan Grapel, a US citizen from Queens, New York then attending Johns Hopkins University, was one of 10 student summer interns who worked for us in 2008. Since completing his internship, he has had no further contact with our organization. We are unable to confirm that this is the same person. We have no further comment at this time," Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Founder and President of The Israel Project said.

In Cairo, preliminary Egyptian investigations revealed that Grapel had met with a number of journalists and intellectuals in cafes in central Cairo prior to his arrest, Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported Tuesday.

He allegedly had bought an Egyptian flag, and joined protesters in Cairo's central Tahrir Square, the site of heavy protests that led to the ouster of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Al-Masry Al-Youm said.

Investigations say that Grapel was contacted by the Mossad when he entered Egypt on his American passport, and allegedly asked him to collect information on the separate groups participating in the so-called January 25 Revolution that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Coptic Christians, and the Supreme Council of the revolution.

He reportedly asked demonstrators in Cairo what they sought to achieve in their protests, and incited them against the Egyptian military council.

The report added that six others have been arrested in connection to an alleged "spy network."

On Monday, former defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) criticized the Egyptian security forces over Grapel's arrest, calling them inexperienced.

Speaking to Israel Radio, Ben-Eliezer said that the ordeal was the government's attempt to win favor with the Egyptian people by showing their insistence on national security.

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