U.S. Congressman Gary Ackerman called on Egyptian authorities Wednesday to release a constituent and former intern whom Egypt accuses of being an Israeli spy.
Ilan Grapel was arrested at a Cairo hotel last week and suspected of sedition and inciting Egyptians to clash with the country's military leadership. Grapel's family says he was spending the summer in Cairo as an intern at a legal aid group. Israel has denied the 27-year-old Grapel is a spy.
The arrest came as the military faces criticism of how it is running the country and resonates among Egyptians looking for someone outside to blame.
It has set off new fears in Israel that relations with Egypt will sour now that its longtime president, Hosni Mubarak, has been deposed.
Since Mubarak's ouster, Egypt's military rulers have often warned against unspecified "foreign" attempts to destabilize the country. Egypt, like other Arab states, has a long history of blaming internal problems on Israeli saboteurs.
Ackerman, a Democrat from New York and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says the accusations are bogus, and a breakdown of Grapel's travels proves Egypt's claims to be wrong. Reports in Egypt have him taking part in demonstrations in February, though his mother and classmates say he was in university until May.
"Someone needs to be a grown-up over there and look at the timeline," Ackerman told The Associated Press. "The quicker they complete their investigation, the sooner they will come to the realization that they don't have what they originally though they had."
Ackerman said he has personally intervened with Egyptian officials on Grapel's behalf. He said Grapel was a U.S. law student and served as his intern in 2002.
"He is not a spy. He is a kid in college, acting like a kid in college," he said. "He is a momentary distraction from what their situation and problems are." Continued...