Ilan Grapel, the Israeli-American who was held in Egypt
for over four moths on espionage suspicions and was eventually released in exchange for 25 Egyptian prisoners,
spoke to the CNN network on Tuesday. In it he discussed the circumstances surrounding his arrest and his feelings on the lengthy incarceration.
Asked about how he ended up in Egypt Grapel said "I was in Egypt on a public interest grant, which makes it more ironic, I was there to help the Arab world in particular, to help the refugees repatriate to America.
"In the end I became accused of working against the Arab world with the espionage charges. For me, it was the perfect opportunity to be involved in the Arab world, international law and it was also cheap rent which is good for a student so…"
He then went on to explain that the Egyptian authorities had become aware of his presence in Egypt because of a police report he had files after a run-in he had with someone local. He noted that: "It (the police report) was intentional, I thought to get off the radar, I thought it would be to my advantage to be up front and flagrantly Israeli.
"I was teaching Hebrew, I was telling people I was from Israel in order to refute all possible suspicion that I'm possibly a spy. I realize that the Arab world is very conspiratorial; I thought it might be a possibility, but I thought they would realize a person who carries an Israeli passport wouldn't be a spy."
The interviewer then questioned Grapel's decision to travel to Egypt at a time when relations between Israel and Egypt are extremely sensitive. "I knew that if something happens there would be many detractors but I thought it is in the interest of Israel to have people visiting or interacting with the Arab people, I don't think you can set up a wall for eternity," Grapel said.
The interviewer then went on to ask about the night of his arrest. "There were about 30 men in civilian closing barged to the room; they asked me my nationality… I had my two passports in the hostel room anyway…I said American Israeli to get anything out in the open, they said come with us, I thought it was about the police report I filed."
Grapel then stressed that the police report he filed was in connection with a dispute over a bill, and not in any way related to espionage. He then went on to discuss the point where he realized the arrest had nothing to do with a simple dispute.
"I quickly found out as they put on the handcuffs that this was not the issue. They took me downstairs; I see the unmarked van – which is a bad sign in any country. Then I was blindfolded and put in the van, I was taken to the prosecutors' office where the interrogations began."
"They did not ever torture me, solitary confinement some people could consider for five months as a form of torture, mental torture, and it's the perfect torture because I show up physically fit to the consular visits but …I'm just pacing in my room," Grapel revealed.
In closing the CNN interviewer asked whether Grapel felt guilty or upset over the deal which saw Israel releasing 25 Egyptian prisoners in exchange for his freedom.
Grapel responded: "I understand that Egypt needed something to show their people, when they took me they thought I would be the panacea for everything that was wrong in their society from the internal strife to the high birth rate. I was accused of seducing Egyptian women regularly, that was one of the charges.
"They just needed something to show their people and when they realized they made a mistake the only thing they could do was…to show people that they released people from the Israeli regime. I understand it was a necessary part of the diplomacy and a lot of things happened diplomatically."