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Report: Egypt prisoner exchange near completion (JERUSALEM POST) By JPOST COM STAFF 05/12/12) Source: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=269629
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Negotiations for prisoner-exchange deal that would see some 63 Egyptians imprisoned in Israel freed for the return of Israeli Beduin Ouda Tarabin were in their final stages Saturday morning, according to Egyptian media.
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The negotiations could be completed within hours, Egyptian-state newspaper Al-Ahram´s online edition reported, citing Egyptian parliamentarians.
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Tarabin, 31, has been held in Egypt since 1999, when he was sentenced in absentia under the countryís Emergency Law to 15 years in prison for espionage.
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The Tarabin Beduin are a large tribe spread across the Negev and Sinai. In the Negev, the Tarabinsí territory is concentrated around Beersheba, while in Sinai, their lands are situated along the Israeli border south of the resort of El- Arish as well as on the Gulf of Suez and on the Red Sea around Nuweiba.
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Since the mid-1990s the tribe has been heavily involved in smuggling, both across the Egypt-Israel border and to the Gaza Strip. Still, the Israeli government and Tarabinís family have rejected accusations of espionage as baseless, and the prisonerís brother maintains he had crossed into Egypt merely to visit their sister in El-Arish.
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Speculation over Tarabinís release began during last yearís US- mediated Egyptian-Israeli negotiations for the release of Ilan Grapel, an Israeli-American law student held for nearly five months on charges of spying for Israel. Grapel was freed last October year in exchange for 25 Egyptian security prisoners.
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At the time, Druse MK Ayoub Kara (Likud) unsuccessfully lobbied US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro to include Tarabin in the deal.
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In 1996 Azzam Azzam, an Israeli Druse textile worker, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor after being convicted of espionage, a charge both he and the Israeli government firmly denied. Following the intervention of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Azzam was released in 2004 in exchange for six Egyptians convicted of planning terror attacks. Tarabin now occupies the same cell in a Cairo jail where Azzam was once held. Oren Kessler contributed to this report. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 05/12/12)
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