Timeline: Five months in Egyptian detention

A look back at the events surrounding the arrest of dual Israeli-US citizen Ilan Grapel on charges of espionage.

October 27, 2011 15:13
2 minute read.
Grapel, Hasson and Molcho

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


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June 12: Ilan Grapel is arrested in Cairo by Egyptian state security officers on suspicion of working for Israeli intelligence to foment sectarian strife and gather intelligence on post-revolution Egypt.

The Emory University Law student, and dual Israeli-US citizen, traveled to Egypt this summer as part of his work for a charity helping African refugees. His family, friends and the Israeli government categorically deny that he was working as a spy in Egypt.

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June 16: Egyptian media reports that Grapel could face indictment the following week and that he confessed to charges that he was working for the Mossad to foment unrest in Egypt and recruit Egyptian citizens to help him in his espionage campaign.

June 19: Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm posts on its website a video reportedly released by Egyptian state security that purports to show Grapel as he is under surveillance by security officers.

In the video, which includes a dramatic instrumental soundtrack, Grapel can be seen briefly standing outside what the paper says is the Azbakiya police station in Cairo during a violent incident in June in which a bus driver allegedly died after being tortured by police.

September 14: An Egyptian court extends the remand of Grapel by 45 additional days, despite an appeal by the US embassy in Cairo that Grapel be released.

October 1: Grapel's parents are allowed to visit him for the first time, along with US consul-general to Egypt, Robert Powers.

October 10: Egypt demands the release of dozens of Egyptian prisoners in Israel in return for the American- Israeli law student, claiming that a top-ranking Egyptian military official discussed an Egyptian-Israeli prisoner exchange during US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s visit to Cairo the previous week.

Egyptian media reports that Washington threatened to reduce military aid to Egypt if Grapel remains detained, but has indicated willingness to increase aid should the US-Israeli dual citizen be released.

October 11: Egypt adds setting fire to police stations to the list of charges faced by Grapel. The state accuses Grapel of throwing fire bombs at police headquarters at the Egyptian Interior Ministry in the wake of Egypt’s January revolution, based on witness statements.

October 18: Captured soldier Gilad Schalit is freed after five years of captivity in an Israel-Hamas prisoner swap. Israel's ambassador to Egypt Yitzhak Levanon tells Army Radio, "I can only hope that, just as we released Gilad Schalit from his captivity, we will release all the rest."

October 25: The 14-member Security Cabinet unanimously approves a deal freeing 25 Egyptian prisoners for Grapel's freedom - an arrangement that was brokered with US help.

October 26: The High Court debates the two petitions against the deal, but denies them on the grounds that these types of exchanges are within the government’s purview. The petitions were filed by MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) and far-right religious party Eretz Israel Shelanu (Our Land of Israel), and by the Almagor Terror Victims Association.

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