Egypt strikes prisoner exchange deal with Israel, releases Ouda Suleiman Tarabin

Egypt released an Israeli citizen imprisoned on espionage charges in exchange for the release of two Egyptian prisoners in Israel, while four other Egyptians are also awaiting their freedom from Israeli prisons as part of the deal, Israeli media outlets reported Friday.

Ouda Suleiman Tarabin, 34, was released on Thursday. Citing unnamed state authorities in Egypt, the Reuters-affiliate Aswat Masriya reported that two Egyptians detained in Israel are expected to be expatriated over the next few days.

The identities of the Egyptian prisoners and the charges against them have not been disclosed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Tarabin after his release, the Jerusalem Post reported.

“Welcome home. We held lengthy talks with the Egyptians for years, and we’re happy to see you with us now,” Netanyahu said. “I said that we’ll get you back here, and this is what has happened. Now you can start over again.”

The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that four other Egyptians allegedly imprisoned in Israel on criminal charges are in the process of being released, and are expected to return to Egypt by next week.

Tarabin is a member of a Bedouin tribe based in the Sinai Peninsula and occupied by Palestine, and emigrated from Egypt to Israel with his family in 1990. He was arrested in 1999 after crossing into the North Sinai capital of Arish, allegedly to visit family members, the state-owned Al-Ahram reported. He sentenced to 15 years in prison by Egypt’s State Security Council in 2000 on charges transferring sensitive information regarding Egypt’s Armed Forces in Sinai to the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, according to Al-Ahram.

Ouda’s father Suleiman had also been sentenced in absentia to 25 years in prison on espionage charges. Israeli media outlets have long proclaimed their innocence.

Tarabin was released from Cairo’s Tora Prison just a few weeks before he would have completed his sentence.

He has featured in prisoner exchange negotiations between Egypt and Israel for years. According to Al-Ahram, the two states last discussed his release, and that of Israeli-American citizen Illan Grapel (also imprisoned on espionage charges) in October 2011. Grapel was released that month in an agreement involving the release of 25 Egyptian prisoners in Israel.

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