Group: Grapel deal includes 50% security prisoners

Almagor, which represents terror victims, says half those to be released in Grapel deal are security prisoners; Security Cabinet to approve swap.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, OREN KESSLE
October 25, 2011 14:07
3 minute read.
Grapel, Hasson and Molcho

Grapel, Hasson and Molcho 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Almagor, a group that represents victims of terrorism, said that half of the 25 Egyptian prisoners to be released in exchange for US-Israeli citizen Ilan Grapel Thursday are, contrary to official claims, security prisoners.

Grapel, a 27-year-old law student who has been held in Egypt since June 12 on charges of spying for Israel, is set to be freed pending the approval of a prisoner exchange at a Security Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

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In a statement, Almagor claimed that half the prisoners had provided weapons to terrorists, while the other half were involved in smuggling drugs.

"The Israeli government is turning herself into a Mediterranean bazaar for her kidnapped citizens, making them a living commodity for terrorists and governments," the group said.

Almagor called on Israeli citizens to avoid traveling in Muslim countries, to avoid the possibility of being kidnapped or arrested for political purposes. "Israelis traveling in Turkey and Jordan may find themselves in a similar situation as Grapel, and consider these events as a travel warning."

Egyptian media had reported that the three of the prisoners are minors who had been acquitted of illegally crossing into Israel to sell cigarettes, but remained imprisoned after prosecutors appealed the ruling.

Israel, 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 Egyptian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Grapel, whose 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 organization.

Egypt accused Grapel of being an Israeli spy and inciting protesters against Egypt’s military. Israel and the Grapel family have denied the charges.

News of his possible release first surfaced just before Egypt helped broker a prisoner- exchange deal between Israel and Hamas to free Gilad Schalit.

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 Queens.

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.

“From the 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 agency," said Ackerman.  Grapel "just found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

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.

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.


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