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Ackerman says Grapel will arrive in Israel Thursday

In 2006 Ilan Grapel was hospitalized after being injured during the Israel-Lebanon war. Photo courtesy AP Photo-Ancho Gosh
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U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) announced Wednesday he had arrived in Israel and was expecting Oakland Gardens native Ilan Grapel to be released by Egypt Thursday afternoon.

Grapel, a constituent of the congressman with dual U.S-Israeli citizenship, was arrested June 12 and accused of spying for Israel, a charge that was later lowered to incitement, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The Post reported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fly to Cairo Thursday with Grapel’s mother, Irene, to retrieve the young man.

At the time of his arrest, Grapel was in Egypt to intern at a refugee-placement program through Emory Law School, where he was a student. He was seen by Egyptian forces taking photos of himself in an Israeli armed services uniform — he had served in the Israeli Army in 2006 — and arrested.

The congressman said he was assured by the highest levels in Israel that Grapel was not a spy.

Ackerman, the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, said he worked personally with the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the Prime Minister of Israel to broker a deal in which Grapel would be exchanged for a reported 25 Egyptian prisoners.

The Post reported Grapel was expected to land at Ben-Gurion Airport at about 5 p.m. and then drive to Jerusalem for a brief meeting with Netanyahu.

Ackerman said he expected to announce the date and time of their arrival in New York soon.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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