Egypt and Israel swap prisoners

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The Independent Online

Twenty-five Egyptians crossed from Israel into Egypt today in exchange for a US-Israeli citizen jailed in Cairo on suspicion of spying.

The Israeli-American was preparing to fly from Cairo to Israel.

Egypt arrested Ilan Grapel, 27, in June, setting off new concerns that Egypt-Israel relations would sour after the removal of President Hosni Mubarak.

Grapel was volunteering at a legal aid group in Cairo when he was arrested and accused of spying for Israel during the uprising that overthrew Mubarak in February. Israel denied the allegations.

All of the 25 were imprisoned on criminal charges, mostly drug-related. Israel said security prisoners were not included in the deal.

Three minors were the first to cross into Egypt. Interviewed by Egypt's state television, two of them said they were arrested after illegally crossing into Israel to sell contraband cigarettes.

Grapel made no secret of his Israeli background and entered Egypt under his real name. His Facebook page had photos of him in an Israeli military uniform. The arrest was ridiculed even in Egypt, where hostility toward Israel runs high.