Israeli Bedouin Ouda Tarabin, who has been held in an Egyptian prison on charges of espionage for 12 years, will reportedly be released this week.
Israel and Egypt are reportedly finalizing the details of a prisoner exchange in which 63 Egyptian prisoners held in Israeli jails will be released in exchange for Tarabin’s freedom.
Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom told reporters Sunday that he was unfamiliar with exchange proceedings, but said “Tarabin has been in prison for too long and should be returned home.”
In 2000, the 19-year-old Tarabin was captured by Egyptian forces after he illegally crossed the border. He was tried for espionage in absentia by an Egyptian military court and sentenced to 25 years in prison under Egypt’s emergency laws, which allow possibility for parole. Tarabin has maintained his innocence from his Cairo jail since his arrest.
The Israeli news site Walla reported on Sunday that the brother of one of the Egyptian prisoners held in an Israeli jail has informed his family that he would be released on Wednesday as part of the Tarabin deal. The prisoners’ relatives were promised by the Egyptian authorities that the deal would go through by April 25, Sinai Liberation Day in Egypt, according to a number of Arab news sites.
It is unknown why Ouda Tarabin crossed the border from Israel to Sinai, but Tarabin’s brother claims that he was likely planning to visit his sister in El-Arish. Another version contends that Tarabin, a shepherd, strayed across the border while searching for a lost camel.
Although Israel lobbied for Tarabin’s release in October 2011 as part of the deal negotiated for the release of Ilan Grapel, the Egyptians were not willing to consider the suggestion. Grapel, a law student with dual US and Israeli citizenship, was jailed for five months on espionage charges while working for an Egyptian NGO that aids refugees from Iraq and Sudan, and released in exchange for 25 Egyptian prisoners.