US Defense Secretary Panetta, Egyptian Maj.-Gen. Rouini 311R.
(photo credit: Win McNamee/Pool/Reuters)
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called on Egypt on Tuesday to release
27-year-old US-Israeli dual citizen Ilan Grapel, who was detained in June on
charges of spying for Israel.
Israel and Grapel’s family have
categorically denied he is a spy.
PM's office denies knowledge of envoy sent to aid Grapel
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“We have expressed concern about his
treatment and have urged that ultimately he be released. And we raised that
issue today... in discussions,” Panetta told reporters in
“We’re confident that ultimately the Egyptian government will deal
with that fairly,” he said, adding he was not involved in direct negotiations
involving the imprisoned Grapel.
Egyptian security also denied there were
any negotiations over his potential release.
Speaking to reporters on
Monday in Tel Aviv, Panetta said, “We have made our concerns known to Egypt
about holding that individual and we would hope that... they will take steps to
release that individual.”
Panetta’s visit to the Arab world’s most
populous country followed speculation by Egyptian and Israeli media over
Grapel’s possible release. There had been speculation that Grapel would be
released on Tuesday and would return to the US together with
Israeli defense officials refused to comment on reports that the
release would take several more days and said that the US was spearheading
efforts to release Grapel. On Tuesday night, Channel 2 reported that Odeh
Tarabin, an Israeli Bedouin, might also be released together with
Egypt’s official news agency reported on Saturday that Cairo is
considering granting Grapel’s release in return for “political and economic
support” from Washington. The report said Grapel’s parents were allowed to visit
him that day for the first time, along with US consul-general to Egypt Robert
Egypt’s Al-Masry Al-Youm
newspaper reported that the initiative
was the work of US Senator Gary Ackerman, who had called for Grapel to be freed
in return for increased US aid to Cairo. Grapel interned for Ackerman, whose
office is near the former’s home in Queens, in the summer of 2002.
arriving in Egypt, the US defense secretary said he hoped to “reaffirm our
security relationship with Egypt” and that he encouraged Egypt’s military rulers
to move ahead with the election process.
Egypt’s parliamentary polls will
start on November 28, beginning the process of handing power to civilians after
former president Hosni Mubarak was ousted on February 11 in a popular
While visiting the country, Panetta also discussed regional
security, including tensions between Egypt and Israel. Egypt became the first
Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 and has received billions
of dollars in US aid since then.
In September, Israel flew its ambassador
to Egypt back home after protesters stormed the embassy building in anger over a
border clash that killed several Egyptian guards in August.
raised concerns about Cairo’s future commitment to its longstanding peace
agreement with the Jewish state.
Panetta said he thanked Field Marshal
Muhammad Hussein Tantawi, who heads the military council ruling Egypt, for
moving quickly to help the besieged embassy.
Reuters contributed to this