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Israel releases Egyptian prisoners under swap deal

RIA Novosti

17:58 27/10/2011

TEL AVIV, October 27 (RIA Novosti) - Israeli authorities released 25 Egyptian prisoners on Thursday to swap them for a U.S.-Israeli national held in Egypt four weeks ago on suspicion of spying, a spokeswoman for Israeli penitentiary department said.

The deal was agreed with Cairo earlier this week and approved by the Israeli security cabinet.

"Approximately an hour ago 25 Egyptians left their places of detention. They are currently being taken to the city of Eilat [on the border with Egypt] and will subsequently be handed over to the Egyptian side,"

Most Egyptian prisoners were sent to jail for trafficking of weapons and drugs. Two of them were serving murder sentences. They would be swapped for 27-year-old Ilan Grapel, who was detained in Egypt in June, was already taken to a border crossing with Israel.

Grapel, who has dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, was detained in Cairo on charges of espionage and subversive actions. He is believed to make attempts to instigate the clashes between the opposition activists and Egyptian police during the mass protests at the Tahrir square in January.

Grapel was also noticed near the building of the Egyptian television where clashes Egyptian Muslims and Christians clashed. He introduced himself as a foreign journalist, covering the unrests.

Egypt's intelligence service said the suspect, fluent in Arabic, tried to provoke protestors to attack police stations and clash with police and the military.

The deal, if succeeds, will be Egypt's largest-ever prisoner swap in 60 years.

Israel agreed earlier this month to release 1,027 Palestinians kept in Israeli prisons in Egypt-mediated exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The first group of 477 prisoners was released on October 18, including 287 sentenced for life, while the remaining 550 will be freed in two months.

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