NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — He’s finally free!
Ilan Grapel, a law student from Queens accused of spying in Egypt had a dramatic reunion with his family in Israel after another prisoner swap. The small plane taxied on the runway at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv as Grapel’s mother, Irene, waited nervously on the tarmac.
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Suddenly the plane stopped, the door opened and out popped the 27-year-old Emory law student, who had been held in a Cairo prison for over four months, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
The big hug he gave his mother said everything about his relief, at being free and no longer accused of being a spy.
An Israeli official said Grapel looked “fine” and was “smiling.”
Waiting back at the family’s Queens home, which proudly flew an American flag, Ilan’s dad, Daniel, showed the strain of the last several months. His son, who hold’s dual American-Israeli citizenship, was arrested on espionage charges as he volunteered at a legal aid group in Cairo that resettled refugees.
The arrest came during the revolt that overthrew the government.
‘We’re just relieved and just happy that this thing happened,” Daniel Grapel told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer. “Cannot wait that it will be totally history and his last name would not be remembered at all by anybody.”
Daniel Grapel said his son was in the “wrong place at the wrong time…out of curiosity.”
Grapel, who was exchanged for 25 Egyptian prisoners held in Israeli jails — mostly for smuggling. Grapel had made no secret of his Israeli background. His Facebook page had pictures of him in an Israeli military uniform.
Congressman Gary Ackerman helped to secure his release.
“He certainly was not a spy, but he did present them with an opportunity. He’s an Israeli. There’s a lot of paranoia that goes on in the Middle East,” Rep. Ackerman earlier this week.
Grapel isn’t due home for several days. His dad says he won’t press him at first to explain what happened.
“Just basically give him a big hug, a kiss if he allows me. Just let things happen by themselves. I’m not going to say anything, just we let go for few days, then once everything calms down, he can tell more freely how things happened,” Daniel Grapel said.
In Israel, Ilan is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials.
When he gets back, he will return to Emory Law School, where he needs to complete one more year to earn a degree.
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