Egypt court jails Israeli for two years: court sources

An Egyptian court sentenced an Israeli man to two years in prison for crossing illegally into the Sinai Peninsula, court sources told Reuters 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 as 24-year-old army officer Andrei Pshenichnikov.

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 that 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 that Pshenichnikov had crossed into Egypt with plans to enter the Gaza Strip, an Islamist-ruled territory off limits to Israelis, at the time of his arrest a month ago.

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

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.

Since then, the countries have maintained an uneasy peace. Their relations have been marred by recent attacks on Egyptian and Israeli border guards and 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.

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