While the homecoming of Gilad Shalit has been the headline and major topic of much international news as of late, it is important to acknowledge that another Israeli prisoner (this one held in Egypt) has also recently been released.
Llan Grapel, an Israeli-American law student from Queens, NY, was released after four months in an Egyptian prison. In June, Grapel was at a demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square when he was arrested and accused of being an Israeli spy. At the time, he had been volunteering for a group aiding Sudanese refugees in Egypt. Grapel was holding a protest sign at the rally on June 12th when he was arrested. Grapel was thrown in jail for four months, where he was held without any formal charges against him, and no indication of any trial. Grapel was held in solitary confinement for these four months, although at one point he received a visit from his mother.
During this time, Israeli officials tried to negotiate Grapel’s release from Egypt, and Queens US District Rep. Gary Ackerman (whom Grapel had interned for years before) wrote recommendations to Egypt’s ruling military council for Grapel’s release as well. Finally, a deal was reached whereby Israel agreed to free 25 Egyptians held in Israel for the return of Grapel.
Although Grapel had been a law student at Emory University, once he returned home, Grapel noted “all of a sudden, the Bill of Rights is not something for the history books,” as he now holds as newfound appreciation for the American legal system.