JERUSALEM (JTA) — Egypt is calling for the release of dozens of Egyptians being held in Israeli prisons in return for alleged spy Ilan Grapel.
Seventy-eight Egyptians are now held in Israeli prisons, accused of infiltrating the border, the Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram reported. Other demands reportedly also have been made for the release of Grapel, a dual American-Israeli citizen.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in a visit last week to Egypt reportedly expressed concern about Grapel’s continued detention on spying charges but was unable to secure his release. The Egyptian news service MENA reported that the United States had offered Egypt additional aid and political support in exchange for Grapel’s freedom.
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.