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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What does the new Egyptian leadership mean for Ouda Tarabin?

Ouda Tarabin, an Israeli Arab,  has been imprisoned in Egypt since 2000 when he went over the border to visit his sister in El Arish without proper papers. He never had a chance to defend himself in court against the espionage charges.

There were rumors during and after the Grapel deal last year that Tarabin would be released, but it never happened. Now that Egypt has a new government, what does that mean for him?

Israel's Channel 2 recently wrote up about the case, noting that Israel has been very quiet in negotiating his release. Yet even most Israelis never heard of Tarabin.

According to CNN Arabic, the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists plans to file a complaint against Egypt to the International Council for Human Rights saying that Egypt's arrest of Tarabin deliberately violated his human rights. The organization also plans to appeal directly to new Egyptian president-elect Mohamed Morsi to release Tarabin.

The article quotes Israel Radio as saying that Amnesty International also submitted a report about arbitrary arrests by Egyptian authorities, including that of Tarabin, and Egypt never responded. A 2011 Amnesty report says:

Dual Egyptian-Israeli national Ouda Suleiman Tarabin continues to be detained allegedly on the basis that he had been tried by a military court and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for espionage back in 1999, when he was aged 19. Ouda Suleiman Tarabin was arrested two days after he entered Egypt illegally. He said he was insulted when he showed an Israeli passport. He told the lawyer who represents him now that he was never brought before a judge nor assigned a lawyer before. The authorities have so far failed to provide a copy of the verdict of the military court despite repeated requests by the lawyer to the Minister of Interior, Minster of Justice and the prison authorities and it remains unclear whether he is indeed serving a prison sentence or is in fact held in administrative detention. Amnesty International wrote to the Minister of Interior to inquire about the legal status of Ouda Suleiman Tarabin but received no answer. Ouda Suleiman Tarabin continues to be held in Liman Tora Prison.
The case of Tarabin will show whether Morsi is a reformer who will fight against the abuses of the previous military regime, as he claims, or if he is just another politician.