Kara 'outraged' at Egypt's punishment of Israelis

"Court decision to give life sentence for bearing unauthorized ammunition political rather than legal," Likud minister says.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN, REUTERS
March 13, 2012 19:27
1 minute read.
Weapons seized by police.

weapons guns arms seized by police 390. (photo credit: Israel Police)

 
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Deputy Negev and Galilee Development Minister Ayoub Kara expressed outrage on Tuesday at an Egyptian court that sentenced two Israelis to life in prison on charges of smuggling a machine gun and ammunition across the Israeli border into Egypt.

One of the Israelis is in Egyptian custody, while the other defendant was tried in absentia. A Ukrainian was also sentenced.

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“The court’s decision to give a life sentence for bearing unauthorized ammunition was political rather than legal,” Kara said. “The Egyptian authorities were merely looking for a sacrificial lamb due to situation in Gaza.” Kara said one of the Israelis sentenced was Mouad Zehalka of Kafr Kana.

According to the court that issued the conviction, the Ukrainian, manager of a tourism company in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm e- Sheikh, had ordered the weapon from one of the Israeli defendants, the source said.

The other Israeli, who lived in Eilat, brought the weapon into Egypt at the border at Taba in a cross-shaped wooden crate.

The machine gun and ammunition were discovered when the crate was placed on an explosives detection machine. The weapon was the sort used by police in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, investigators said.

The captured Israeli has denied knowing the contents of the crate, while the Ukrainian said he had ordered the weapon for personal protection, the court said.



Security along Egypt’s border with Israel, long a conduit for the smuggling of guns and people, was relaxed after the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak following a popular uprising in February 2011, as police presence thinned out across Egypt.

The region has been hit by a number of gas pipeline explosions and cross-border attacks.

In June, Egypt arrested an American-Israeli on suspicion he was trying to recruit agents and monitor events in the uprising that toppled Mubarak, an ally of Israel and the United States. He was released in October in a prisoner swap that included the release of 25 Egyptians held in Israel.

Egyptian officials say limits on troop numbers in Sinai under the 1979 peace treaty with Israel make it harder to secure the mountainous region.

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