Israeli Scientists Rescued at Sea After Release from Custody in Egypt

A group of Israeli and U.S. marine biologists detained by Egyptian authorities in southern Sinai on July 2 had a further ordeal in store after their release Friday.

Their motor yacht, Sue Ellen, serving as a research vessel, was swamped by heavy seas. The party had to be rescued by the Israeli navy, which towed the half-sunken craft back to Eilat.

No injuries were reported. But the 12 scientists and five crew members was each $600 poorer after posting the bond demanded by an Egyptian court, which was not refunded.

The Eilat-registered vessel was seized by the Egyptian coast guard for allegedly entering restricted waters near Sharm el-Sheikh, the southernmost point on the Sinai peninsula.

The scientists, researching marine organisms that might have medical uses, were accused of diving without a permit and theft of specimens.

They said they had been doing research in the same waters for the past six to seven years with no objections from the Egyptians.

They were given a hearing by a court in A-Tor, the administrative capital of southern Sinai. The Egyptians apparently were embarrassed to learn that several members of the party were U.S. citizens.

One was identified as Professor Ilan Spector of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Others were from Tel Aviv University.

Sailing for home, the Sue Ellen ran into heavy weather. Its engine room was flooded, and an SOS was sent out. Israeli air force helicopters rescued all on board except for three members of the crew, who stayed with the vessel while it was towed to Eilat by a naval craft.

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