Ilan Grapel has arrived back in Queens, landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday, October 29 after months in an Egyptian jail following allegations he was an Israeli spy.
Grapel was released from jail on Thursday, October 27 and flown to Israel, where he was reunited with his mother Irene and Congressmember Gary Ackerman on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport. He then departed for the U.S. early Saturday morning.
He was released in exchange for 25 Egyptian prisoners, according to Ackerman’s office, after being accused of spying for Israel and spending more than four months behind bars in Egypt.
“Grapel’s attorney, Abbe Lowell really helped win the case along with Ackerman,” said Daniel Grapel, Ilan’s father.
Grapel, who holds joint U.S. and Israeli citizenship, was volunteering for a group aiding Sudanese refugees in Egypt, while staying at a youth hostel. According to reports, he was detained by police who saw him carrying a protest sign at a demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in June. Grapel was accused of being an officer of the Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence Service, despite records of entering the country with a legitimate passport.
Grapel graduated early from Johns Hopkins University, speaks fluent Arabic and Hebrew, served in Israel’s armed forces and had internships with Israel’s high court and in the Queens district office of Ackerman.