An Egyptian court sentenced three men, including two Israelis, on Monday to life imprisonment for arms smuggling from Israel into Sinai.
Muad Zahalka of Kafr Kara has been held in Egypt since last October, and Mamoun Abdel Fatah Elalimi was tried in absentia and is currently in Israel.
The third man, Eduard Bablovich, is an Ukranian citizen who operates a tourism service in the Sinai tourist town of Sharm el-Sheikh.
According to Egyptian media sources quoted in Haaretz, Zahalka was arrested in October at the Taba border crossing after a box in his possession was found to contain a shotgun and ammunition. He later admitted during police interrogation that Elalimi had requested he give the box to Bablovich.
Zahalka, who works in the tourism industry in Eilat, said he did not know the contents of the box he was transporting.
Haaretz reported that Zahalka’s family had contacted Knesset members who have Egyptian contacts, including Ayoub Kara of Likud and Israel Hasson of Kadima, in an effort to influence the Egyptian court’s decision.
His family maintains his innocence in the affair and said that Zahalka believed he was transporting a box of crucifixes from a monk in Bethlehem, according to Ynet News.
One family member was quoted as saying, “This verdict is unfair. I think the Egyptian court was influenced by the security situation in Israel.”