June 23, 2011 / 10:23 AM / 9 years ago

Egypt sentences 3 to life for spying for Israel

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian court sentenced a businessman, and two Israelis who were tried in absentia, to life in prison on Thursday for spying for Israel.

Egypt arrested businessman Tarek Abdel Rezek Hussein, 37, the owner of an import-export firm, in August for involvement in the recruitment of operatives working for telecoms firms in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.

The two Israelis, who have not been arrested but were accused of being part of the spy ring, were also convicted and sentenced by the emergency state security court.

Hussein was accused of accepting $37,000 (23,129 pounds) to provide Israel with information about Egyptians working in telecoms companies who could be recruited to spy in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.

The rulings were issued by judge Gamal el-Din Safwat Rushdi, witnesses in court said.

The case is separate from one involving Ilan Grapel, 27, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen who was detained on June 12 on suspicion of spying. Israel has denied he is a spy.

Egypt has maintained diplomatic and economic ties with Israel since they signed a peace accord three decades ago. But resentment lingers among ordinary Egyptians over Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.

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.

Writing by Edmund Blair; editing by Robert Woodward

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