Israeli Bedouin Jailed in Egypt Since 1999 Appeals for Release

Amnesty International slams Egyptian government treatment of Ouda Suleiman Tarabin, who was arrested after entering Egypt illegally; report says Tarabin never brought before judge or lawyer.

Haaretz Service
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Haaretz Service

A dual Egyptian-Israeli national jailed in Egypt since 1999 appealed to the Israeli government to help secure his release, Israel Radio reported on Wednesday.

In a letter sent to the radio station, Ouda Suleiman Tarabin pleaded for his story to continue to be told, writing in the letter that he was living "in a graveyard."

Army soldiers stand guard outside the gate of a prison in Cairo, April 13, 2011.Credit: Reuters

Tarabin, who is a Bedouin, was arrested by Egyptian authorities after entering the country illegally in 1999 to visit his sister, who lives in El Arish in Sinia. The letter reached Israel Radio through Tarabin's attorney, Yitzhak Meltzer, who visited him in Liman Tora Prison near Cairo last week.

Tarabin's case was also mentioned by Amnesty International in a newly released report describing the problematic use of emergency powers under former President Hosni Mubarak.

According to the human rights group, "Tarabin continues to be detained allegedly on the basis that he had been tried by a military court and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for espionage back in 1999, when he was aged 19." According to the report, Tarabin claims that he "was never brought before a judge nor assigned a lawyer before."

Additionally, Amnesty criticizes Egyptian authorities for failing to provide a copy of the verdict of the military court, despite repeated requests from Tarabin's current lawyer to the Minister of Interior, Minster of Justice and the prison authorities. "It remains unclear," the report states, "whether he is indeed serving a prison sentence or is in fact held in administrative detention."

According to Egypt's Universal Periodic Review Report to the UN in 2009, political authorities in Egypt are only entitled to use their emergency powers to deal with terrorism and drug offenses "and they have kept their pledge".

In the report, Amnesty slammed this statement, claiming that Egyptian authorities did not honor this commitment, using administrative detention as a shadow criminal justice system and circumventing judicial decisions.

Tarabin's case was raised by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and by Tzipi Livni when she was foreign minister. Shas chairman Eli Yishai raised Tarabin's case during meetings with Mubarak and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. In some meetings, Mubarak's comments suggested he thought Tarabin had already been released.