Egypt frees Israeli Arab after 15-year espionage sentence

Estimated read time: 1-2 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli Arab who served a 15-year sentence in Egypt for espionage was released Thursday and welcomed back by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Ouda Tarabin, a Bedouin Arab, crossed into Egypt illegally in 2000 and was convicted of spying for Israel. He maintained his innocence over the years. Egypt released Tarabin after he served his full sentence.

"I feel like I'm dreaming," Tarabin said, referring to his incarceration as "when I was in a cemetery in Egypt."

Netanyahu said the 34-year-old could now start his life over. The prime minister's office said Israel released two Egyptian prisoners, without providing further information. Egyptian officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Hundreds of well-wishers crowded a welcoming tent Thursday for Tarabin, who returned to his desert village. He told Israeli reporters he planned to find a wife and start a family.

Itzhak Levanon, a former ambassador to Egypt who was involved in efforts to get Tarabin released over the years, told Israel Radio that the Israeli citizen was held in terrible conditions, including a cell without a toilet.

"Most of the time he was held in isolation, he suffered there," Levanon said.

Levanon added that Tarabin was charged in an Egyptian military court and never told exactly what he was accused of.

The veteran diplomat also recounted a conversation during his posting in Egypt with then-President Hosni Mubarak.

"Mubarak told me something that causes me to lose sleep even today, but I couldn't do anything because I was sitting with a president," Levanon said. "He said, 'We always need to have an Israeli prisoner with us.'"

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Most recent World stories

Related topics

The Associated Press


    Catch up on the top news and features from, sent weekly.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast