[UPDATE] Ilan Grapel has arrived back in Queens, landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday after months in an Egyptian jail following allegations he was an Israeli spy.
[UPDATE: Thursday, October 27] Ilan Grapel has arrived in Israel. Congressmember Ackerman, joined by Ilan’s mother Irene, met Grapel on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport. They will soon meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Details on his arrival back to New York will be announced as soon as they are confirmed.
[UPDATE] Congressmember Gary Ackerman has arrived in Israel to bring Ilan Grapel home. 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 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.
The Prime Minister of Israel announced that Ilan Grapel, the Oakland Gardens native and law student arrested during the Egyptian uprisings in June, will be released in exchange for 25 Egyptian prisoners, according to Congressmember Gary Ackerman’s office.
Grapel, 27, had been a member of the Israeli military serving as a paratrooper and was injured in southern Lebanon in August 2006. After returning home, he attended Emory Law School in Georgia and traveled to Egypt as part of a project involving African refugees. Grapel arrived early in an effort to experience the country when he was arrested and accused of being an officer of the Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence Service, and inciting the firebombing of an Egyptian police station. He has been held for four months despite records of entering the country with a legitimate passport and posting pictures of himself on Facebook during the uprisings that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak.
“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.”
Grapel worked with Ackerman, the top Democrat on the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, as in intern in the summer of 2002.
“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,” said Ackerman.
“I still reserve my emotional opinion because we have to wait until he actually crosses the line, before that nothing is 100 percent guaranteed until it actually happens,” said Daniel Grapel, Ilan’s father.
After negotiations, Grapel’s parents were able to meet with their son in Egypt for three hours just before Rosh Hashana.
“Physically he’s okay, but mentally it’s hard to say exactly,” said his father.
Reports say that Israel’s Security Cabinet unanimously approved the deal to exchange 25 prisoners for Grapel with the swap taking place on Thursday, October 27 under intense security. The prisoners are said to be non-militant offenders held on charges of illegally entering Israel in search of work, asylum or with contraband.