Egypt court jails Israeli for two years

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Cairo - An Egyptian court sentenced an Israeli man to two years in prison for crossing illegally into the Sinai peninsula, court sources said on Tuesday.

Egypt said in December it had arrested the man after he slipped into the Sinai's Taba region and took photographs of security buildings.

State media at that time identified the man, Andrei Pshenichnikov, as a 24-year-old army officer.

Israel had no comment on the case, but an official speaking on condition of anonymity denied the man held by Egypt was in the military.

Pshenichnikov's mother told Israel Radio in December her son had completed compulsory military service and had lived in Palestinian territory in the occupied West Bank before heading to Egypt with plans to meet up with friends in Cairo.

Israeli media described him as a pro-Palestinian activist, and reported a month ago at the time of his arrest that Pshenichnikov had crossed into Egypt with plans to enter the Gaza Strip, an Islamist-ruled territory off limits to Israelis.

The ruling by the court in the Nuweiba area of Sinai was issued on Monday.

The court sources said Pshenichnikov had not given a convincing explanation for why he crossed into Egypt illegally when he could have entered as a tourist.

Sinai has suffered from lax security since Egypt's 2011 uprising, which overthrew President Hosni Mubarak. Egypt regained the peninsula, which Israel occupied during a 1967 war, after the two signed a peace deal in 1979.

The two countries have maintained an uneasy peace since then, and their relations have been marred by several high-profile cases in which Egyptian authorities accused Israel of espionage.

Israeli tourists have continued to holiday in the Sinai, although in lower numbers since a spate of bomb attacks on resorts from 2004 to 2006. - Reuters

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