Man's Mother Says Son Is No Spy, 'Just An Ordinary College Student'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The family of a Hollis Hills, Queens man caught up in an international spy case is hoping for their son’s safe release.

Ilan Grapel, 27, was arrested in Egypt on Wednesday and accused of being an Israeli agent who tried to sabotage the Egyptian revolution.

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Grapel’s mother, Irene, told CBS 2’s John Metaxas that her son is just a law student from Emory University who started an internship volunteering for a refugee organization just last month. She said she is “asking for prayers from anybody.”

“We want our son home safely. He’s just an ordinary college student. He’s not involved in any untoward activities,” Grapel’s mother said.

Grapel’s parents called the United States consulate in Cairo Sunday night and got a duty officer on the case — and eventually their son on the phone.

“He sounded okay. He sounded good. I said ‘are you being treated well?’ He said ‘I’m being treated well’ and that was good to hear, and it was good to hear his voice,” Irene Grapel said.

However, the State Department said that its function in the case is limited.

“I believe now that they’ve got a number of days to carry out an investigation and elaborate on the charges against him,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

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The Grapels had hoped Ilan would not make the trip.

Daniel and Irene Grapel (credit: CBS 2)

“We did our best to discourage him,” his mother said.

“Maybe he’s a little bit careless about going into a situation,” Grapel’s father, Daniel, said.

Grapel’s parents said that their son has always been a driven person. His father showed Metaxas his son’s military awards that were earned as a volunteer who was wounded in combat with the Israeli Army.

According to friends and family, Grapel has learned Arabic and has a passion for Arab culture.

“It’s overwhelming because you are dealing with an area of the world you are not familiar with and you just don’t know what the next step is going to be,” Irene Grapel said.

The Grapels said they are willing to go to Egypt if needed. For now, however, they are sending their prayers half way around the world hoping their son be released.

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