IPS moves 22 prisoners ahead of Ilan Grapel exchange

American-Israeli to be released in swap for 25 Egyptian prisoners; three additional prisoners who are minors will be transferred at later stage.

By JPOST.COM STAFF,
October 26, 2011 17:16
3 minute read.
Ilan Grapel in an interview to Channel 10 in 2006

Ilan Grapel_311. (photo credit: Channel 10 News)

The Israel Prison Service (IPS) transferred 22 Egyptian prisoners to be exchanged for dual US-Israeli citizen Ilan Grapel, Israel radio reported Wednesday evening.

Three additional prisoners set to be released must remain in their current prison until tomorrow because they are minors.

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Grapel will be returned to Israel at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram reported Wednesday morning.

Grapel, held in Egypt on spying charges since June, will be transferred across the Taba border near Eilat in exchange for 25 Egyptians held in Israeli prisons, according to the report.

MK Michael Ben-Ami (National Union) and far-right religious party Eretz Israel Shelanu ('Our Land of Israel') party petitioned the High Court on Wednesday against the deal.

The petitioners argue that the decision to release the prisoners is problematic from a legal standpoint, because it was made by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's 14-man security cabinet and not the government itself.

The petitioners also argue that the prisoner release agreement is "disproportionate and unreasonable" and that it differs from the Gilad Schalit deal because Grapel "went to Egypt of his own free will to participate in various activities of extremist movements."

The petition also asks that the court order the state to give the public additional time to file appeals and petitions against the prisoner release.

This deal comes just nine days after Israel and Hamas carried out a historic prisoner swap to release captive Israeli tank gunner Gilad Schalit.

On Tuesday Netanyahu's 14-man security cabinet unanimously approved the prisoner exchange with Egypt.

A statement put out by the Prime Minister's Office said Israel agreed to the Egyptian request for the release 25 Egyptian prisoners, including three minors. While the list of the prisoners has not yet been released, they are not believed to be security prisoners, but rather Egyptians in Israeli jails for carrying out criminal acts such as smuggling from Sinai into Israel.

According to the statement, Netanyahu directed the officials dealing with the matter to make all efforts to also free Ouda Tarabin, another Israeli citizen in Egyptian jails. Tarabin, a Beduin shepherd, has been held for 11 years on espionage charges after illegally entering Egypt.

Al Ahram reported that Egypt has rejected Israel's requests and will not release Tarabin at this time.

Tarabin's attorney, Mahmoud a-Sana Tarabin, told Israel Radio Wednesday morning that the Israeli authorities had hinted to Tarabin's family that there were "hidden matters that they were quietly working on."

The lawyer added that Odeh made just one mistake - crossing the border into Sinai to visit his sister without a passport or identification- and he was sent to prison for five to ten years without standing trial.

"Being a Beduin" was seemingly the only reason Tarabin had not yet been released, the lawyer opined during the interview.

According to Al Ahram, Egyptian security in the Sinai peninsula will be very tight on Thursday in preparation for the prisoner exchange.

To prevent interference from terrorist elements in Sinai and along the border with Israel, which operate against both the Israeli and Egyptian governments, Grapel will reportedly be transferred to Taba in a heavily armored security detail, which will also be used to transfer the released Egyptians back to Cairo.

Grapel was arrested on June 12 and initially held on charges of spying for Israel. These charges were later downgraded to incitement.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report


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