Menu JTA Search

Israeli president asks Mubarak to free convicted Druse citizen

JERUSALEM, Sept. 28 (JTA) – President Ezer Weizman is looking to succeed where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has failed. During a visit Sunday to Egypt, Weizman obtained a promise from President Hosni Mubarak that he would look into “constitutional ways” to pardon an Israeli citizen recently sentenced by a Cairo court on charges of espionage. At a joint news conference, Mubarak said he would examine whether he could pardon Azam Azam as part of general amnesty granted to other prisoners. Weizman told reporters that extensive coverage of the case, which has strained Israeli-Egyptian relations, had not helped resolve the problem. Netanyahu said earlier this month that he expected Mubarak to pardon the 35-year-old Druse man. Mubarak later rebuffed the request, saying that Netanyahu had insulted the Egyptian judicial system when he called the verdict in the case “twisted.” In a seven-page letter to Netanyahu, Mubarak said that Netanyahu’s high-profile efforts made it virtually impossible for Mubarak to do anything on Azam’s behalf. Azam, a mechanic at an Israeli-Egyptian textile plant in Cairo, was convicted Aug. 31 of spying for Israel and sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor. Azam, who was arrested last November in Cairo, was charged with giving women’s underwear soaked with invisible ink to an Egyptian national, Emad Abdel-Hamid Ismail, who then used the ink to write messages to Israel about the state of Egyptian factories. The Cairo court sentenced Ismail to life imprisonment for being an accomplice. Israeli officials have insisted that Azam was not a government agent.

NEXT STORY