JERUSALEM (JTA) — U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta left Egypt without Ilan Grapel, the dual U.S.-Israeli citizen being held in Egypt on spying charges.
Grapel has been held in an Egyptian prison since June. Panetta reportedly expressed concern about Grapel’s continued detention but was unable to secure his release.
The Britain-based Arab daily Al-Hayat newspaper reported Oct. 2 that Grapel would be released to Panetta’s custody following his visit. The Egyptian news service MENA reported that the United States had offered Egypt additional aid and political support in exchange for Grapel’s release.
Panetta met Tuesday in Cairo with senior Egyptian officials.
Grapel is a New Yorker who moved to Israel following his graduation from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He joined the Israeli army, served as a paratrooper during the Second Lebanon War and was wounded in Southern Lebanon in August 2006.
Egyptian security officials said Grapel entered the country shortly after the start of the Jan. 25 uprising that led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and posed as a foreign correspondent.
A law student at Emory University, Grapel allegedly said he was Muslim on the visa application that he filed with the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv and then entered Egypt using his American passport.
Grapel denies he is a spy. He says he came to Egypt to intern for a nongovernmental organization that assists refugees from Sudan and elsewhere.