Who is the real spy? Ilan Grapel (left) or Austin Powers?

As we mentioned yesterday, a student at Emory Law School by the name of Ilan Chaim Grapel was arrested in Egypt on Sunday, and ordered held for 15 days. The Egyptians allege that Grapel is a “highly trained” spy, working for the state of Israel.

Ilan Grapel is a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen. And he did serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) prior to law school, as a paratrooper (which sounds pretty awesome bad-ass).

But does that make Ilan Grapel a spy? Some observers, including classmates of Ilan’s from Emory Law, find the allegation highly dubious….

Here’s what one of them told us here at Above the Law:

This morning’s story on MSNBC regarding Ilan says that Egypt is claiming he’s been in the country since January with the purpose of disrupting Egypt’s revolution. I don’t know if this is that important to your continuing coverage of the story, but I can personally vouch that Ilan was working at ELS’s library in January, straight through the end of the semester, and so could no fewer than 500 other people, I suspect.

We asked the tipster: What’s Ilan Grapel like as a person?

Ilan is a good guy. Keeps to himself and strikes me as a more serious type. But he is deeply involved in Emory Public Interest Committee, and he secured an EPIC grant to be in Egypt in the first place. Who knows, he may be Mossad for all I know, but the smart money is on a nice guy with the wrong résumé in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I imagine this will go away quickly now that the U.S. State Department is on the case.

And now that the Facebook group, Egypt: Release Ilan Grapel, has swelled to almost 700 members (up from about 300 the last time we checked). Those Egyptians are really into the Facebook.

Commenters on our prior post share the view that Grapel doesn’t sound like much of a spy:

“You’d think if you were a spy in Egypt, you’d have a better cover story than former Israeli paratrooper.”

“Aside from being an acquaintance of Ilan Grapel, his being a spy (specifically for the Mossad) does NOT hold water because (a) Grapel always used his real name; (b) whenever Israel wants to send someone to spy on an Arab country, they will send a NATIVE Arabic speaker, not someone with an American accent who sticks out like a sore tongue [or thumb?]; (c) it takes 2.5 years of intensive training ONLY after finishing service in an IDF combat unit before the Mossad will even send you out on a mission; and (d) Grapel has been studying at Emory University (in Atlanta, Georgia) for the past two years and only got released from the IDF September, 2007.”

For what it’s worth — and maybe it’s not worth much, since they’d probably say the same thing even if he were a spy — the Israelis vociferously reject the notion that Ilan Grapel is in their employ as a spy:

“This is a student, perhaps a little strange or a little careless. He has no connection to any intelligence apparatus, not in Israel, not in the U.S. and not on Mars,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Army Radio.

The foreign minister said Ilan Grapel’s arrest was a “mistake, or bizarre behavior, on the part of the Egyptians” and said he hoped “this saga will end as soon as possible.”

Liberman’s hope is shared by Emory Law School’s dean, David Partlett. Earlier today, Dean Partlett sent out a school-wide email that stated, in pertinent part:

On Monday, June 13, we received reports that one of our rising third-year students, Ilan Grapel, had been arrested and detained in Egypt. Ilan applied for, and was awarded, an EPIC grant to work in Cairo this summer. We are in contact with his family and are working with them to provide whatever support and assistance we can.

This is a sensitive situation that the family is working through with officials from the appropriate government agencies. We ask that you keep Ilan and his entire family in your thoughts during this very difficult time.

We’ve reprinted Dean Partlett’s complete email at the end of this post.

When you stop and think about it, this is a pretty crazy story. Lots of law students work overseas during law school, often doing public interest work for NGOs and courts. Last summer, for example, Grapel received a grant to work at the Supreme Court of Israel.

Can you imagine being in Ilan Grapel’s shoes? You’re working overseas, between your 2L and 3L years, and you get arrested? And accused of being a spy?

Has Ilan Grapel secured post-graduate employment? If not, and if he has to go through the challenging process of 3L recruiting, he now has one heck of a story to bust out for fall interviews.

P.S. I previously opined that Ilan Grapel is a hottie, but a motion for reconsideration is pending. See the photo at right, where he doesn’t look quite as cute — even though I like the size and shape of his balloon.

Israel: US-born man held in Egypt is no spy [MSNBC.com]
Emory law student arrested in Egypt on spy charges [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
Egypt spy allegations against Israeli questioned [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
Egypt: Release Ilan Grapel [Facebook]

Earlier: Law Student of the Day: Ilan Grapel, Accused of Spying for Israel

EMORY LAW SCHOOL — MEMORANDUM — ILAN GRAPEL

Dear Students:

On Monday, June 13, we received reports that one of our rising third-year students, Ilan Grapel, had been arrested and detained in Egypt. Ilan applied for, and was awarded, an EPIC grant to work in Cairo this summer. We are in contact with his family and are working with them to provide whatever support and assistance we can.

This is a sensitive situation that the family is working through with officials from the appropriate government agencies. We ask that you keep Ilan and his entire family in your thoughts during this very difficult time.

If you have questions or concerns, contact Katherine Brokaw, assistant dean for student affairs, at [xxx]. If you receive questions from members of the media, please refer those to Tim Hussey, senior director of marketing and communications at [xxx].

Sincerely,
David Partlett


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