Soviet Spy and Egyptian Detainees May Be Released from Israeli Jails

A spy for the former Soviet Union and about 30 Egyptians jailed in Israel for various security offenses, including spying, may be released shortly, according to press reports here.

The Egyptian authorities are reported to have sought the release of their nationals at various times in the past. The issue was raised most recently during negotiations for the release of four Israelis arrested in Cairo in February on suspicion of spying.

The former Soviet spy, Shabtai Kalmanovitz, came to Israel in the 1980s and established himself as a successful businessman and society figure until he was arrested and sentenced in 1988 to nine years in prison for spying on Moscow’s behalf.

The Israeli daily Ma’ariv said he would be freed shortly because of ill health. The vice president of Russia, Alexander Rutskoi, reportedly intervened on his behalf during his official visit to Israel last month.

He reportedly asked President Chaim Herzog to reduce Kalmanovitz’s sentence to time served. Kalmanovitz’s espionage was in the economic, financial and technological areas, not military.

If and when he is released, he could return to Russia with his wife and teen-age daughter or remain in Israel, Ma’ariv said.

Meanwhile, Israel was said to have agreed to consider the release of the 30 Egyptians but “not linked in time to the release of the Jewish and Arab Israelis from prison in Egypt.” The Israelis — David Ovitz and Israeli Arab Fares Mussarti, his son Majid and daughter Faya — were freed and returned home on May 6.

It has been suggested that the four, who were never formally charged, were arrested to use as leverage for the release of the Egyptians serving time for espionage or other security offenses in Israel.

NEXT STORY