JERUSALEM (May. 5)
An optimistic statement by Foreign Minister David Levy raised hopes that four Israelis detained in Egypt since February will soon be released.
Levy spoke to reporters Tuesday upon his return from Lagos, Nigeria, where he participated in ceremonies marking the renewal of diplomatic ties between his country and the African nation.
He referred hopefully to the case of David Ovitz, a furniture importer from Givatayim, and he indicated for the first time that the Egyptians might also free three Israeli Arabs arrested at about the same time as Ovitz. Until now it was believed that the Egyptians were likely to release Ovitz but keep the Arabs in custody.
Levy, who would not give any dates for a release, based his optimism on a letter he received from Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa, who promised to do his best to bring the affair to an early end.
He denied, however, that Israel was paying Egypt ransom for the prisoners.
Israeli journalists in Cairo had reported that the Israel Embassy there remitted certain fees necessary for their release.
The incident began early in February with the arrests of Fares Mussarti, an Arab from Ramla, his 21-year-old son Majid and 17-year-old daughter, Faya, who were traveling in Egypt, allegedly on false identification papers.
They were accused of spying, though it was never made clear for whom. Ovitz, who occasion ally employed Fares Mussarti as an interpreter on his buying trips to Egypt, was also taken into custody.
Although the Egyptian authorities were silent, the Egyptian press said the Mussartis had confessed and that Faya implicated Ovitz.
But the latest reports from Cairo said the police now discounted her testimony because she had been caught in several lies.
The Egyptian authorities have hinted they were likely to release the Israelis, but no official move has been made yet.
What is needed for their release is a statement by the advocate general at the State Security Court that there is no longer any valid reason to hold them.
Israel Embassy officials in Cairo tried Monday to ascertain the Egyptians’ intentions but got no reply.
“We can only hope,” said Ronni Porat, the Israeli consul general in the Egyptian capital.