The freedoms committee of the Egyptian Doctors Syndicate has called on President Mohammed Morsi to do his utmost to obtain the release of Egyptian prisoners held in Israel.
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The call came the same week the attorney for Ouda Tarabin, an Israeli Bedouin being held in Egypt, contacted the syndicate to try to get him released.
The doctors issued their statement Monday at the end of the syndicate's special conference attended by Ayman Sharawna, a resident of Dura near Hebron. Sharawna was freed in the October 2011 deal for abducted soldier Gilad Shalit and was rearrested by Israel in January 2012. Sharawna staged a hunger strike for 260 days that ended with his release in a deal exiling him to Gaza for 10 years.
Sharawna told a press conference in Cairo that 63 Egyptian citizens are imprisoned in Israel and are being held in difficult conditions.
In their statement to Morsi, the doctors wrote that under the principles of the Tahrir revolution, Egypt cannot neglect its citizens, including those jailed in other countries, particularly Israel. The doctors said most of the prisoners in Israel had served at least half their terms.
The doctors demanded that Morsi intervene to release these prisoners, just as he was a key factor in the Shalit deal that freed more than 1,000 Palestinians.
The issue of Egyptian prisoners in Israel comes up occasionally in Egypt, but it rarely makes headlines because the overwhelming majority are Sinai Bedouin arrested for smuggling and other crimes. The issue has rarely led to public pressure on the Egyptian government.
Pressure is being applied, however, by Tarabin’s family. Tarabin has been jailed in Egypt for 13 years after being convicted of spying for Israel. Tarabin, who is being held in Tura Prison in Cairo, recently wrote to Israel's ambassador to Egypt, Yaakov Amitai, asking him to tell both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Morsi that he had launched a hunger strike, which he would keep up until he was freed.
Tarabin noted that he had served more than half his sentence, that he had never been visited in prison, and that his rights as a prisoner are trampled on every day. “My feeling is that they locked me up and someone threw away the key,” he wrote. “I’m spending the best years of my life behind bars and I didn’t even have a fair trial.”
Tarabin’s lawyer, Izhack Melzer, asked the doctors syndicate to lobby the Egyptian authorities to agree to a prisoner exchange that would bring Tarabin home. Melzer’s move, however, was apparently unrelated to the syndicate's statement earlier in the week.
“There’s no doubt that Ouda is acting out of total despair, and that’s why he decided to go on a hunger strike,” Melzer said. “Maybe this means we will get someone on both sides to move and work for his release.”