Israeli-American Ilan Grapel, who has been held in Egypt for over four months, is expected to be returned to Israel this evening as part of a deal that releases 25 Egyptian prisoners.
Most of the prisoners to be released are Sinai Bedouin jailed for smuggling drugs or weapons. None were killers; three are minors.
Three of the prisoners have already completed their sentences. Another five were due to be freed by the end of the year, one as early as next week.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's special envoy, Isaac Molho, and MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima), who conducted the negotiations for Grapel, are to fly to Cairo today at 3:30 P.M., together with Grapel's mother, who arrived in Israel yesterday. The three will pick up Grapel and within less than an hour fly back to Ben-Gurion Airport, where Grapel will be shepherded through the VIP lane.
The media will not be allowed to photograph Grapel's arrival in Israel or speak to him; the only pictures to be distributed will be those taken by the Government Press Office.
Once Grapel is en route to Israel, the Egyptian prisoners will be freed at the Taba border crossing.
The 22 adult inmates were moved to a jail in the south yesterday to prepare them for their release, an Israel Prisons Service spokeswoman said. The minors will be moved today.
From the airport Grapel will be whisked off to the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, where he will have a short meeting with Netanyahu at about 6:30 that will also be closed to the press. It was not clear last night whether Grapel would then be allowed to hold a press conference.
The High Court of Justice yesterday rejected petitions against the prisoner swap. The petitioners, MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union ), the terror victims group Almagor, and the Israel is Ours group, argued that the decision to release the Egyptians was problematic legally, since it was made by the 14-member security cabinet and not by the full government.
They also said the deal was disproportionate and unreasonable, noting that Grapel went to Egypt of his own free will, and was not sent there by Israel.
Grapel, a student at Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Georgia, was arrested in Egypt on June 12 and accused of spying for Israel. The charges were later downgraded to incitement.
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