June 13, 2011 — -- An American law student has been detained by Egyptian authorities on charges he is a "highly trained" spy working for Israel, Egyptian media reported today.
The U.S. State Department confirmed Sunday's arrest of 27-year-old dual U.S.-Israeli citizen Ilan Chaim Grapel in a statement, but declined to comment concerning allegations voiced in Egyptian state media that he was working for the Israeli intelligence force, Mossad, "with the aim of harming [Egypt's] economic and political interests."
Grapel's mother, Irene Grapel, told ABC News the charges against him were "complete fabrications."
"I was dumbfounded," said Irene Grapel of when she learned her son had been detained. "I don't know where to put the next step."
Irene Grapel said her son had traveled to Egypt to work with a non-profit organization that helped other African refugees in Egypt. "He volunteered his time to go there," she said.
Both Irene Grapel and the State Department said Ilan Grapel had been visited by U.S. officials and appeared to be in good health in captivity. Irene Grapel said that speaking with her son today was "just great."
"My imagination was running wild last night, thinking of what they could be doing to him," she said. Before the popular revolt against former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, those detained by Egyptian police were sometimes subjected to harsh interrogation and torture.
Grapel, from New York, served in the Israeli military as a paratrooper and was injured in combat in 2006 in the Lebanon War. His mother said he is currently enrolled in Emory Law School and had received a small stipend from the school for his work in Egypt. Emory University released a statement today also confirming Grapel's arrest and said the university is working with his family "to provide support and assistance."
Ilan Grapel's mother said it was likely many pictures Grapel took and posted on Facebook of the widespread protests in Egypt, coupled with his history in the Israeli military, that prompted his detention. A picture of Grapel smiling in his Israel Defense Forces uniform was featured in several Egyptian news reports.
Egypt's state news reported Grapel was to be detained fifteen days, but that time could be lengthened if Egyptian authorities wished to question him further. An official with the Israeli Foreign Ministry told The Jerusalem Post early Monday they had yet to receive details of an arrested Israeli citizen.