Egypt charge 2 Israelis with smuggling weapons

AP News
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Posted: Dec 26, 2011 4:17 PM
Egypt charge 2 Israelis with smuggling weapons

Egypt's state prosecutor on Monday charged two Israelis and a Ukrainian with smuggling weapons and trying to implicate Egyptian security, the first case of its kind against foreigners since longtime President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February.

A statement from the prosecutor's office said the three would be tried in an emergency state security court, usually reserved for terrorism cases. No date for the trial has been set.

The charges are the first case of bringing foreigners to trial in connection with the turmoil in Egypt since the ousting of longtime President Hosni Mubarak in February.

Although not directly holding the suspects responsible for any of the violence, the statement said the smuggled weapons were to be used in "illegal" operations aimed to implicate Egyptian security. No further details were given in the statement.

More than 100 people have been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces since Mubarak was ousted.

The country's rulers have often blamed "hidden hands" and foreign funding in the violence.

The statement said the first suspect, an Israeli-Arab resident of Eilat, Moaz Zahalka, arrived at the Israel-Egypt border crossing at Taba, carrying a large wooden box shaped like a cross. Upon inspection, the statement said officials found an automatic rifle and ammunition in the box.

The statement said that during interrogation, Zahalka, a tour agent, confessed he had two accomplices_ a Ukrainian living in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik, who had asked another Israeli-Arab to send him the weapon. Zahalka frequently visits Egypt's Red Sea resorts, the statement said.

The Ukrainian and one Israeli-Arab are in custody, while the other Israeli has not been apprehended, the prosecution said.

In June, Egypt accused an Israeli of spying during the uprising. He was freed without being charged. Also, an Iranian diplomat was accused of spying and asked to leave the country.

Also Monday, a security official said late Monday a militant was arrested in northern Sinai. He said the militant had instructions on making explosives and statements denouncing the Egyptian military and police. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

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Additional reporting by Ashraf Sweilam in el-Arish, Egypt.