JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel released four Egyptian prisoners jailed for drug trafficking, bringing to six the number of Egyptians freed in exchange for a suspected spy who was returned to Israel.
The latest four were released on Monday, following the two other prisoners set free on Thursday — the same day that Bedouin-Israeli Ouda Tarabin was sent back to Israel after serving a 15-year prison sentence on charges of spying for Israel.
Three of the six released Egyptian prisoners had completed their sentences; the others had up to six years remaining.
“I am happy that Ouda is back with us again,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the Cabinet meeting on Sunday. “The State of Israel takes care of all its citizens without exception.”
Netanyahu noted that he worked with three Egyptian presidents – Hosni Mubarak, Mohamed Morsi and the current leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – to request his release.
“I gave my word that he was not a spy for Israel,” the Israeli leader said.
In a meeting with the prime minister on Thursday, Tarabin thanked Netanyahu for Israel’s efforts to secure his release, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
Tarabin’s family in July accused Netanyahu of not helping him because he is not Jewish.
Israel and Egypt had negotiated in the past for Tarabin’s release. The issue came to the fore during negotiations in 2011 to secure the release of Israeli-American law student Ilan Grapel, who was held for five months in an Egyptian prison on charges of spying for Israel.