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Egyptian Court Sentences Israeli to Death for Drug Smuggling

March 7, 1986

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ An Egyptian judge Thursday convicted an Israeli man of drug smuggling and sentenced him to death, but the defendant’s Israeli lawyer said the decision would be appealed.

Yusef Amin Tahan, an Egyptian-born Israeli from Ashdod, stood calmly as Judge Adel Sidky of North Cairo’s Criminal Court read out the sentence of death by hanging. Tahan was also ordered to pay a $7,500 fine.

Zvi Lidsky, an Israeli lawyer who attended the session as an observer, told reporters the defense would appeal the decision and seek a new trial.

Tahan was arrested in August at Cairo International Airport after customs inspectors found 2 3/4 pounds of heroin in his baggage.

Tahan, who flew to Cairo from Bombay, India, said he planned to take the heroin to Israel for sale there.

Lidsky told reporters the defendant would have received no more than 10 years in prison for the same offense in Israel.

Asked whether the Israeli government would intervene in the case, Lidsky said, ″No, we believe in Egyptian law and (the appeal) will be brought to court according to the law and let justice prevail.″

Lidsky, who is not authorized to practice law in Egypt, said Tahan’s family would retain an Egyptian attorney for the appeal. Tahan was represented in the first trial by a court-appointed lawyer.

In Jerusalem, an Israeli official said the government would wait until the appeals process before deciding what action to take.

″We have no comment to make as long as there is still room for an appeal,″ the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told foreign reporters.

Egypt began sentencing drug smugglers to death last fall in an attempt to curb growing narcotics traffic. Four Egyptians, one Sri Lankan and a Somali also have been sentenced to death for drug trafficking. No executions have been carried out.

Tahan, 44, refused to speak with reporters after the sentencing.

Earlier, he told reporters he decided to fly from India to Egypt and enter Israel by land because of heavy security at Tel Aviv’s airport.

″I had no idea that the law was that stiff here,″ he has said. ″The law in Israel is lighter.″ He insisted he planned to sell the heroin in Israel, where it would fetch a higher price.

Egypt has maintained full diplomatic relations with Israel since 1980, a yaer after the two countries signed a peace treaty.

Under Egyptian law, the defense has 40 days to appeal the sentence to the Court of Cassation, the highest tribunal for criminal offenses. President Hosni Mubarak can grant a pardon after all appeals are exhausted.

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