CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt arrested an Israeli man on Sunday suspected of spying and recruiting agents to destabilise Egypt and sow strife after President Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down on February 11, the prosecutor and judicial sources said.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it was not aware of the case.
Judge Hesham Badawi of the supreme state security prosecution ordered the man to be detained for 15 days on suspicion of “spying on Egypt with the aim of harming its economic and political interests”, MENA news agency reported.
Egypt, which in 1979 became the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel, has experienced months of political upheaval since protesters overthrew Mubarak, who had maintained close ties with Israel.
The detention may add to tensions raised by a row over the halting of Egypt’s gas exports to Israel after a pipeline blast and Cairo’s easing of restrictions at a Gaza border crossing that Mubarak had kept very tightly controlled.
Egypt resumed pumping gas on Friday.
MENA said the man worked for Israel’s Mossad intelligence service. It named him as Ilan Chaim Grabel and said he was arrested at his hotel in central Cairo.
Detention orders of 15 days are often renewed in Egypt if further questioning is deemed necessary.
One judiciary source said the man had been active in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the revolt against Mubarak, after the former president stepped down.
“He was there on a daily basis inciting youths towards sectarian strife. He was distributing money to some of them,” the source said, adding he had been encouraging some youths to clash with the army. He said youths reported the man’s actions.
A statement issued by Egypt’s public prosecutor said the suspect had been sent to Egypt to recruit agents “trying to gather information and data and to monitor the events of the January 25 revolution”.
The prosecutor also said that the suspect was “present at demonstration sites, inciting protesters to carry out riots and that would disturb public order and trying to stir strife between the army and the people with the aim of spreading chaos and a return to the state of security breakdown”.
Officials at Egypt’s Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment.