'Ilan Grapel to be released shortly after Schalit swap'

"Al-Ahram": Grapel to be released in exchange for all 81 Egyptians being held in prisons in Israel.

By OREN KESSLER
October 16, 2011 07:53
2 minute read.
Ilan Grapel in an interview to Channel 10 in 2006

Ilan Grapel_311. (photo credit: Channel 10 News)

 
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Ilan Grapel could be released as early as Tuesday, according to Egyptian security sources privy to negotiations to free the 27-yearold law student Cairo suspects of spying for Israel.

The alleged “spy” will reportedly be released in exchange for all 81 Egyptians currently held in Israeli prisons.

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Reuters, citing an Egyptian security source, reported the swap for Grapel would take place through the Taba border crossing after Israel completes the prisoner exchange with Hamas for kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit.

“After the Schalit deal is done, there will be an arrangement to swap Grapel for a number of Egyptian prisoners in Israeli prisons,” the source said. “But the two deals are separate and not linked.”

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called on Egypt this month to release Grapel but denied he was involved in direct negotiations over the matter.

Egyptian security at the time also denied there were any negotiations over his release.



Grapel, a dual American-Israeli citizen, is a New Yorker who moved to Israel after graduating from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He later joined the IDF and served as a paratrooper in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, in which he was wounded in southern Lebanon. Grapel is currently enrolled as a law student at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Since Israel closed its embassy following its ransacking last month, there is no significant diplomatic presence in Cairo dealing with the case, and it is being dealt with for the most part by the US embassy in Cairo.

Egypt said Grapel entered the country shortly after the start of the late-January uprising that toppled longtime president Hosni Mubarak within weeks.

Egyptian authorities say that in applying for a visa at the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv (an application he filed with his US passport), Grapel identified himself as a Muslim. Detained in June, Grapel was later charged with espionage, incitement and the attempted arson of the Interior Ministry and police headquarters.

Israeli authorities, as well as Grapel’s friends and family, vehemently deny he is a spy, maintaining that he traveled to Egypt to experience the country’s prodemocracy revolution and to intern for a nongovernmental organization that helps African refugees.

In June Democratic US Representative Gary Ackerman from New York – for whom Grapel interned in 2002 – described the law student as “very liberal” and someone who “wants to help people in Egypt.”

“This is like no good deed goes unpunished,” Ackerman told The Jerusalem Post. “He’s the most unlikely spy anybody could ever imagine.”

Herb Keinon and Reuters contributed to this report

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