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EGYPT: Authorities expose alleged Israeli spy ring

December 21, 2010 |  6:51 am

ShowImageAn Egyptian businessman and two Israelis have been ordered to appear in court to face espionage charges that include spying for Israel, Egypt's state security attorney announced this week. 

According to the state, Tarek Abdel Razek Hassan, a 37-year-old Egyptian, accepted $37,000 for providing two Israeli intelligence officers with information about potential recruits at a number of communications companies in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.

The Egyptian general prosecutor ordered the three suspects to appear before the emergency state security supreme criminal court, where they will face charges of spying for Israel and harming Egypt's national interests, state news agency MENA reported.

The attorney's documents state that Hassan, an owner of a small firm for importing and exporting Chinese-made products, was arrested in August. The accused Israelis remain at large and have been charged in absentia. Egyptian officials have reported the pair to Interpol.

Though the Israeli Embassy in Cairo has yet to comment on the matter, Yigal Palmor, spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, said his country was not familiar with the charges, adding that Israel "will have to look into it in order to understand what this is all about."

No dates for court hearings have been set.

The disclosure came one day after Egyptian media quoted an unnamed security source as saying that four locals were arrested in May for allegedly working together with two Israelis who were plotting to kidnap foreigners in the Sinai Peninsula in order to harm Egypt's tourism industry.

The source added that investigations revealed the suspects had established offices in Britain, Egypt, Israel and Gaza to gather information about Chinese and Japanese tourists visiting Sinai. It is unclear whether the two cases are linked.

Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. But relations between the two countries occasionally have been strained by Egypt's capture of alleged Israeli spies.

In 1997, an Arab Israeli, Azzam Azzam, was sentenced to 15 years in jail after being convicted of working for Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel. Azzam was released in 2004 as part of a deal that saw the release of six Egyptian students who had been detained in Israel.

In 2007, a dual Canadian-Egyptian citizen and a local nuclear engineer were sentenced to 15 years and life, respectively, for the same charge. Israel dubbed both cases "a fabrication."

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, meets with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in December 2009. Credit: Associated Press

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