311_US rep Gary Ackerman.
(photo credit: Bloomberg)
WASHINGTON – Congressman Gary Ackerman has appealed personally to Egyptian
authorities in the case of Ilan Grapel, who once worked as his intern and is now
being held for allegedly spying for the Mossad.
“I’m speaking with
Egyptian officials on a regular basis,” the New York Democrat told The Jerusalem
Post on Friday. “I got assurances from Israel that this kid is not their kid,”
i.e. a Mossad agent.
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Instead, Ackerman said that Grapel was a full-time
law student whose schedule he had verified with the Emory University authorities
to prove that he couldn’t have been engaged in espionage for the
Ackerman said he has also been in close touch with the US State
Department, and that all parties involved were acting professionally and
seriously in the case.
Grapel interned for Ackerman, whose office is near
his home in Queens, in the summer of 2002.
A dual citizen of America and
Israel, he later served in the IDF and was wounded in the second Lebanon War, an
incident that was well publicized.
The congressman described his former
intern as “very liberal” and someone who “wants to help people in Egypt.” He
said he was in the country to help refugees from nearby African countries who
had fled to Egypt.
“This is like no good deed goes unpunished,” he said.
“He did some things that are frankly foolish... but a spy – give me a break!”
Ackerman is urging the Egyptians to finish their investigation and procedures as
quickly as possible so the case can be resolved and Grapel doesn’t become a
“We’re working very hard. His parents love him very much
and are very concerned,” he said.
“They and I want him back in Queens as
quickly as possible.”
Despite the current situation, Ackerman said he
remains hopeful about Grapel’s fate.
“I have to be optimistic because
he’s not a spy. He’s not involved in espionage,” he said.
“He’s the most
unlikely spy anybody could ever imagine.”
Efforts to secure the release
of Grapel continued over the weekend, with the Egyptian press reporting the
Israeli and Egyptian authorities have met to discuss the
According to reports in the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram and in the
Hebrew media, Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Levanon met with the head of the
Israeli desk in the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to try to get the young man
Also on Friday, Al-Ahram reported that Grapel, a 27-yearold
American-Israel arrested in Cairo on Sunday for allegedly working for the Mossad
to penetrate Egyptian political parties and activist groups to gather
intelligence and foment sectarian strife, was visited by a US consular official
who said he was in “deep trouble.”Ben Hartman contributed to this