Egyptian imprisoned in Israel despite the end of his sentence, report

An Egyptian citizen is still being held in Israel’s Nafha prison over a year after his sentence expired due to bureaucratic problems between Egypt and Israel, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Monday.

The Israeli security service Shin Bet arrested Ahmad Sawarka, 27, from Sinai, along with five other Sinai residents, in March 2009, accusing him of conspiring with Hamas and planning to carry out a suicide mission in Israel or abducting an Israeli soldier from Gaza to Sinai.

The newspaper added that Sawarka made it into Israel and was looking for a suitable location for the suicide attack, which would be carried out by someone else than him. If the operation failed, he was supposed to help abduct an Israeli soldier.

Sawarka was convicted in 2011 on charges of murder, infiltration into Israel, conspiring to conduct a kidnapping operation, and handing over sensitive information to ‘the enemy’. He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment after he confessed to the crimes.

The newspaper went on to say that after Sawarka ended his prison term in September 2016, Israel did not release him because of Israel’s so-called Infiltration Law, which enables the country to keep him behind bars until Egypt can provide a laissez-passer.

The Egyptian applied to an Israeli court to deport him to Egypt, or Gaza, where his wife lives, because “the conditions inside the Israeli prison are unbearable.”

Israeli Interior Ministry officials told the newspaper that the real obstacle to his release was the Egyptian embassy, which did not issue a pass. According to the ministry, in the absence of proof of his legal status, he cannot be released.

However, an informed source close to the case told the newspaper that Israel is, in fact, blocking the issuance of a travel permit for Sawarka.

On their part, the Israeli immigration authorities said that the process of issuing a permit takes time, but the issue is likely to be solved soon.

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