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Daily Israel Report

Sources: Deal for Tarabin's Release in the Works

With Gilad Shalit and Ilan Grapel free, attention is now turning to yet another Israeli: Ouda Tarabin, in an Egyptian prison for 11 years.
By David Lev
First Publish: 10/27/2011, 9:22 AM

MK Ayoub Kara
MK Ayoub Kara
Yoni Kempinski

With Gilad Shalit and Ilan Grapel freed from the clutches of their Hamas and Egyptian captors respectively, attention is now turning to yet another Israeli in prison in Egypt -  Ouda Tarabin, an Israeli Bedouin who has been held by Egypt for over 11 years on charges of spying for Israel. According to news websites in Egypt, a deal is already in the works to free Tarabin, with Israel to release yet more Egyptians being held in Israeli prisons on serious security charges. According to the sites, negotiations are set to begin soon on the “price” Israel will be asked to pay for Tarabin.

In a statement released earlier this week after the Grapel deal was confirmed, the Prime Minister's Office said that it was dedicating all necessary resources to getting Tarabin freed.

Tarabin was arrested by Egypt in 2000, when he was 19 years old, after crossing the border from Israel into Sinai. Tarabin was charged on mysterious – and still unknown – charges of “spying,” and was tried in absentia for espionage by an Egyptian military court. While in custody of border police in Sinai, Tarabin, his attorney Yitzchak Meltzer says, was informed that he had been sentenced to 15 years in prison. No evidence  - except for unsubstantiated testimony from an Egyptian cousin, who has been in jail since 1999 on similar charges -  or defense was presented, and Tarabin was not even indicted. He was convicted under Egypt's emergency laws, and there is no possibility of parole.

Tarabin's family says that Ouda was not a spy, and that he had entered Sinai to visit his sister in El-Arish. When he was informed of his sentence, Meltzer says, Ouda was also told that his father had been sentenced to 25 years in prison, also on espionage charges. Meltzer believes that the jailing of Ouda and the threat against his father may surround a bid for revenge by either the Egyptian government or a high official against Ouda's father or the family, who immigrated to Israel in 1991. It should be noted that Egypt did not even admit that it was holding Tarabin until 2004; then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other officials raised the issue with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, and were given “indirect answers,” Meltzer says.

Deputy Minister for Development of the Negev and Galilee, MK Ayoub Kara (Likud), had called for Tarabin to be included in the Grapel deal. Speaking at at a special new conference with the Tarabin family several weeks ago, Kara said: “I am ashamed that an Israeli Bedouin citizen does not get the same treatment as the one received by Ilan Grapel.”