Egypt is mulling its own prisoner exchange with Israel, swapping a U.S.-Israeli joint national suspected of spying for Israel for 81 Egyptians detained in the Jewish state, the state-owned daily Al-Ahram said Sunday.Al Ahram published a list of the 81 prisoners that it says Israel would release. Most of their crimes are for illegally infiltrating Israel, drug charges, or weapons charges, with sentences from 3 to 15 years.
Ilan Grapel, who has been in custody since June 12, has been accused of being an agent of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency and of sowing sectarian strife and chaos in Egypt during the uprising which ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February.
Israel has strongly denied the claims, insisting the whole thing was a mistake and accusing Egyptian authorities of “bizarre behavior.”
Egypt mediated between Israel and the Islamist movement Hamas to secure a deal under which more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners are to be freed in exchange for soldier Gilad Shalit, captured in 2006.
“All reports suggest that the Shalit deal will not be the only one concluded between Arabs and Israel in the coming days,” Ahram said.
It should “soon be followed by another deal, between Egypt and Israel, in which the spy Ilan Grapel... will be released in return for all Egyptians held in Israeli prisons,” the daily said.
There are 81 Egyptian prisoners, including three children, held in Israel, the majority facing criminal charges, including illegal entry to Israel, drug trafficking and arms possession.
Negotiations on an exchange are almost finished, the paper said.
“The success of the Egyptian mediation of the Shalit deal and Israel’s formal apology to Egypt for the death of Egyptian soldiers killed on the border by Israeli fire, certainly cleared the road for making the Grapel deal.”
Two of them, however, may be terrorists: Atef Ahmed Hamdan Qudaih is a Palestinian who was sentenced to 20 years for attempted murder, and Mohamed Hassan Osman was sentenced to 15 years also for attempted murder. I have not been able to find out the details of these cases.
UPDATE: Sylvia in the comments notes that Egypt is holding another Israeli citizen, Ouda Tarabin, a Bedouin being held on trumped up spy charges who was arrested for visiting relatives in El Arish. It would be tragic if he is not included in any deal.