Israeli national Andre Pshenichnikov, 24, has been detained in Egypt since Friday, his family reported. The Foreign Ministry of Israel confirmed the information and launched an investigation of the case.
Egyptian security officials confirmed that they have arrested Pshenichnikov after he illegally entered from Israel into the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula near the Taba crossing.
According to the officials, he was trying to reach the Gaza Strip through Sinai to fight alongside Palestinians.
Friends of Israeli held in Egypt insist he's 'a peacenik' -
Andre Pshenichnikov's friends defended him Tuesday, saying he is neither a spy nor a terrorist, "Just a peace activist." "Andre is a sensitive, kind and non-violent guy," one of them said, adding, "I hope the State will help him even though he's a leftist."
Pshenichnikov's mother, Svetlana, told Ynet: "He was planning to meet up with some friends of his in Cairo after coming back from France about a month ago. He eventually got his visa from Egypt and a week ago went to Eilat and tried to cross the border to Egypt legally.
"The police there arrested him, claiming that he was trying to cross the border illegally. He was tried in Eilat and was told he could be released if he signed a document by which he vowed not to go to Egypt. He refused, so they took both his Russian and his Israeli passports and let him go.
According to Pshenichnikov's mother, he was then planning to stay in Eilat, but the next day called her and told her that he was detained in Taba. "They wouldn’t let me talk to him that much; his voice was fine, and he said that the conditions were fine, but I'm afraid that he's lying to keep me from worrying too much.
She claimed he was an "activist for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, which is very dangerous. He's been arrested before, so I took all my money and bought him a ticket to Paris. He just came back recently."
Several Egyptian sources said Pshenichnikov took photos of security facilities and talked to Bedouins in the area, who notified the Egyptian security services and led to his arrest.
Sources in Egypt said that Pshenichnikov entered the Sinai Peninsula via one of the border crossings in order to perform "a dangerous mission for one of the Israeli security services."
Ezra, a friend of Pshenichnikov, told Ynet: "Those who know Andre know that he's as far from the espionage world as anyone can be. He's anti-establishment." He accused the Egyptians of seeking to use his friend as a bargaining chip, adding that the claims of espionage was "ridiculous."
"Andre is a sensitive, kind and non-violent guy," he said, adding, "I hope the State will help him even though he's a leftist."
Dima, another friend, described what a kind man Pshenichnikov is: "When he saw that someone hurt a dog he spent two days trying to save it and find it a new home. A spy? For whom? I really don't know why he went to Egypt, but he is not a violent man, he is a man of peace."
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