Israel is willing to release all Egyptian prisoners held in Israeli jails in return for Ouda Tarabin, an Israeli Bedouin convicted of espionage and held in Egypt since 2000, Israeli sources said Wednesday.
Israel Radio in Arabic reported that an Israeli security official traveled to Egypt Monday to discuss the release of 83 Egyptian prisoners in exchange for Tarabin.
Reports of an imminent exchange deal emerged in Egyptian media in April and again in May, but a deal never materialized.
Tarabin, a dual Egyptian-Israeli, was arrested in 2000 for alleged espionage after he sneaked across the border to visit his sister in El Arish and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. His family maintains he is innocent and Israel has reportedly been quietly negotiating for his release.
An unnamed source in Egypt’s General Intelligence Agency (Mukhabarat) confirmed to the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm that negotiations with Israel on an exchange are ongoing. He told the daily that Egypt could release Tarabin, who has become “worthless” after Egyptian intelligence succeeded in thwarting his subversive activities.
General Nabil Fouad, a former adviser to Egypt’s defense minister, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that President Mohammed Morsi faces domestic pressure to release Egyptians imprisoned in Israel.
Mark Regev, a spokesman at the Prime Minister’s Office, told The Times of Israel that he could not confirm the report.
In October 2011, American Israeli Ilan Grapel was released from Egyptian prison in exchange for 25 Egyptians in Israeli jails.