Last updated: 26 October, 2011

Israel court rejects appeal against Egypt prisoner swap

The Israeli Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected an 11th-hour appeal against a prisoner swap with Egypt for alleged US-Israeli spy Ilan Grapel, a court official said.

The judges ruled that the planned exchange was a political decision which they had no authority to intervene in and rejected the appeal lodged by far-right member of parliament Michael Ben Ari and the Almagor victims’ association.

Israel’s security cabinet on Tuesday approved a deal to free 25 Egyptians held in Israeli jails, three of them minors, in exchange for the release of Grapel, a government statement said.

None are being held for security offences.

Grapel, 27, who has been in custody in Egypt since June 12, is expected to land at Ben Gurion airport at 1500 GMT on Thursday and be welcomed by his family before travelling to Jerusalem to be received by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, public radio reported.

The Egyptians will be released at the Taba border crossing.

Grapel was accused by Egypt of being an agent of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency and of sowing sectarian strife during the uprising that ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February.

Israel has strongly denied the claims against him, insisting the whole thing was a mistake and accusing Cairo of “bizarre behaviour.”