CAIRO: A state security court on Thursday sentenced an Egyptian businessman to 25 years in prison for spying for Israel, court officials said.
Presiding judge Gamaleddin Rushdy also sentenced two Israeli citizens in absentia to 25 years in jail.
The businessman, Tareq Abdel-Razek, was arrested in August and charged four months later along with the two Israelis for seeking to recruit agents in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon to spy for Israel.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Razek, who runs an import-export company, was accused of providing the two Israelis, from May 2007 to May 2010, information on Egyptians, Syrians and Lebanese working in the field of telecommunications and selecting those likely to cooperate with Mossad.
He reportedly confessed that his two Israeli contacts asked him to travel many times to Syria with a fake name under the pretext of purchasing local products whereas the real aim of his trip was to give funds to a Syrian security officer working in a "sensitive" area. He reportedly received $37,000 in exchange of his work.
Egypt’s official press said his confession had led to three espionage cells being dismantled in Lebanon and Syria.
Thursday’s sentencing followed last week’s arrest of a dual Israeli-U.S. national for allegedly spying for Israel. Ilan Grapel was arrested on suspicion of sedition and inciting Egyptians to clash with the country’s military leadership.
Egyptian prosecutors said he was a Mossad agent. His family, however, maintains he was spending the summer in Cairo as an intern at a legal aid group. Israel also denies the 27-year-old Grapel is a spy.
Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979 but their relations have been cool. Often, relations between the two Middle Eastern neighbors became tense over what Cairo sees as Israel’s unwillingness to negotiate in good faith with the Palestinians and over similar spy cases.
Over the years, Egypt has arrested a number of people accused of spying for Israel.
In 2007, Egypt convicted a 31-year-old Egyptian-Canadian dual national of spying for Israel. Three Israelis were charged in absentia. Israel dismissed the case as a fabrication.
In 1996, Egypt sentenced Azzam Azzam, an Israeli Arab textile worker, to 15 years in jail for spying for Israel. Egypt said Azzam had passed messages in women’s underwear using invisible ink.
Both Azzam and Israel denied the charges. He was released after serving eight years as part of a deal that included the release of six Egyptian students in Israel.