Monday, April 29, 2013

Free Ouda Seliman Tarabin

From The Times of Israel, 24 April 2013, by Stuart Winer:

An Israeli citizen, held for over 12 years in an Egyptian prison on charges of spying that he denies, said he is starting a hunger strike in protest against both Egyptian and Israeli authorities that have failed to bring about his release.
الهوية الإسرائيلية للجاسوس عودة ترابين
“I am the only one who is paying the price of the revenge and hatred for the State of Israel and the prime minister that come from the Egyptian government and those who head it,” wrote Ouda Tarabin, a Bedouin from Rahat, in a hand-written letter to Israel’s ambassador in Cairo, Yaacov Amitai, on Tuesday.
Tarabin said that he began his fast because Israel has violated its commitments to him by not doing enough to secure his freedom, even though it knows that he is innocent. Tarabin also asked for the letter to be delivered Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.
“I request from the honorable sir, that by virtue of his being the ambassador of Israel and the representative of the prime minister in Egypt, to bring a notification of my hunger strike to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi,” he wrote.
In recent years there has been talk of a prisoner exchange of dozens of Egyptians held in Israel in return for Tarabin, but so far they have not come to fruition. Likewise, he was not included in the 2011 Ilan Grapel exchange.
In 2000, the 19-year-old Israeli Bedouin Tarabin was captured by Egyptian forces after he illegally crossed the border. He was tried for espionage in absentia by an Egyptian military court and sentenced to 15 years in prison under Egypt’s emergency laws, which allow possibility for parole. Tarabin has maintained his innocence from his Cairo jail since his arrest.
It is unknown why Tarabin crossed the border from Israel to Sinai, but Tarabin’s brother claims that he was likely planning to visit his sister in El-Arish. Another version contends that Tarabin, a shepherd, strayed across the border while searching for a lost camel.
Although Israel lobbied for Tarabin’s release in October 2011 as part of the deal negotiated for the release of Ilan Grapel, the Egyptians were not willing to consider the suggestion. Grapel, a law student with dual US and Israeli citizenship, was jailed for five months on espionage charges before being released in exchange for 25 Egyptian prisoners.

In a letter to the Israeli ambassador in Cairo that was featured in a Voice of Israel Radio broadcast on Wednesday, Tarabin urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to file a complaint with the UN Security Council and a lawsuit with the UN's International Court of Justice for his release.
Addressing Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy, he said that he was not given a fair trial and held the Israeli prime minister responsible for his life....
...According to an Israeli television channel, a team from the United Nations Commission of Human Rights that investigated Tarabin’s case said in 2012 that he was subjected to arbitrary arrest and had not received a fair trial.
From JPost, 24 April 2013, by Gershon Baskin, co-chairman of the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit:
...Ouda Seliman Tarabin is a national of Israel. He was 10 years old when his family moved from Egypt to Israel, and was subsequently granted Israeli citizenship. I have been told that during the time that Israel controlled Sinai, Tarabin’s father probably collaborated with the Israeli security forces there. When Israel handed Sinai back to Egypt, Tarabin and his family were given Israeli citizenship and they moved to the Negev.
In September 1999, Tarabin and his mother traveled to Egypt on their Israeli passports to visit his sisters who were residing in El-Arish, Egypt. They returned to Israel at the end of their visit.
On December 2, 2000, while on another visit to Egypt, Tarabin was arrested by the local police at his sister’s home in El-Arish, allegedly for illegally crossing the border and for espionage. The arrest took place two days after he had arrived in Egypt.
Following his arrest, Tarabin was taken for interrogation by the Egyptian Military Intelligence and told that he was being sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. He was informed that his cousin had confessed to the allegation that he and his father were connected to the Israeli army. According to the information received from the source, he did not have access to a lawyer or legal assistance during his interrogation or thereafter. The source submits that the cousin had been interrogated about whom he had visited when he crossed the border into Israel. Reportedly, he responded that he had gone to visit his uncle, Tarabin’s father.
Tarabin was allegedly sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment by a military court in Sinai in March 2000. We have been informed that his prisoner card indicates that he was arrested on December 3, 2000. Therefore, it seems that he was tried and sentenced by the court, prior to his arrest. The source contends that he was not present at the trial and upon arrest he was not given the opportunity to be promptly brought before a competent tribunal. The source further reports that the Egyptian State Security Office stated that his trial took place in March 2000. At that time, Tarabin was not in Egypt; he had not received a summons from any court and he was not aware of any charges against him...

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