See story update, October 26, at bottom:
U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, today hailed the release of his constituent and former intern Ilan Grapel, the American-Israeli student from Queens, New York who was arrested in Egypt last June and accused of spying for Israel.
Grapel is to be freed after Ackerman worked to secure his release by personally intervening with the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the Prime Minister of Israel and the U.S. State Department.
This afternoon, the Prime Minister of Israel announced that Grapel will be released in exchange for 25 Egyptian prisoners, and Ackerman’s office confirmed that the deal is agreed to.
“Ilan’s release is terrific news,” said Ackerman. “We cannot be more relieved and gratified that Ilan will finally be freed and that he will soon be reunited with his family. For four long months, we worked tirelessly to win Ilan’s release, and at last this long and terrible ordeal that Ilan and his loved ones have been forced to endure is almost over. From the beginning, I was assured by the highest levels in Israel that in no way did Ilan have anything to do with espionage, the Mossad or any other type of spy agency. Ilan is a wonderful young man who loves Egypt and the Egyptian culture. He’s a person deeply committed to the cause of humanity and bringing people together, and just found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“I want to express my deep appreciation to the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces as well as a number of very senior leaders in our government and in the Israeli government, all of whom we worked very closely with to keep this process moving steadily toward resolution, to keep Ilan’s family fully-informed, and to maintain focus on the real goal of fixing the original mistake that put Ilan into Egyptian custody,” added Ackerman. “We are also grateful that Ilan was treated well while in custody.”
“This is a great day for Ilan and his family and we share in the joy and relief that they are no doubt feeling” said Ackerman. “We cannot wait for Ilan to return home to Queens so that he and his parents can finally wrap their arms around each other.”
Grapel served as an intern in Ackerman’s office in Bayside, Queens in the summer of 2002, and his family resides in the Oakland Gardens (Queens) section of the Congressman’s district. Egypt accused Grapel of being an agent in Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency and inciting protesters against Egypt’s military.
The 27-year-old Grapel was arrested on June 12 in Cairo where he had been spending the summer working for a refugee resettlement and legal aid organization. Ackerman had been in constant contact with Grapel’s parents throughout the ordeal.
Grapel, who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, served as a paratrooper in the Israeli army and was wounded in Israel’s 2006 war in Lebanon. He is presently a student at Emory University School of Law in Atlanta.
ACKERMAN ARRIVES IN ISRAEL TO BRING ILAN GRAPEL HOME
U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) has arrived in Israel to bring Ilan Grapel home.
Grapel, a constituent from Oakland Gardens, Queens and a former intern in Ackerman’s Bayside, Queens office, was arrested in Egypt last June and accused of spying for Israel. He is expected to be released tomorrow afternoon.
The date and time of their arrival in New York will be announced soon.
Ackerman, who had been assured by the highest levels in Israel that Grapel was not a spy, worked to secure his release by personally intervening with the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the Prime Minister of Israel and the U.S. State Department. The 27-year-old Grapel holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship.