A Nuweiba court in the Sinai Peninsula sentenced Israeli citizen Andre Pshenichnikov, 24, who was arrested in December for illegally infiltrating the Egyptian border, to two years in prison.
An appeal is expected to be filed Wednesday.
Friends of Pshenichnikov told Ynet that the sentence came as great surprise, seeing as the maximum penalty for infiltration is six months imprisonment.
Sources with the Foreign Ministry reported that the ministry was monitoring the proceedings.
The defendant’s mother, Svetlana Pshenichnikov, told Ynet that she could not make sense of the decision: “We don’t understand. It doesn’t make any sense. I’m so worried; I’m in shock. The Foreign Ministry said they were taking care of it, but I don’t understand what happened. I don’t know what to think anymore. I have hope, but it’s not up to me.”
Lizzie, Andre’s friend, also expressed great shock upon hearing of the sentence: “There had already been two judicial decisionsto deport him, and after an appeal we were asked to surrender his passport. So we did; we got his passport from Israel and handed it in. We expected the worst case scenario would be deportation within six months, even though a judge determined that he’d be deported immediately.”
Lizzie estimated that the unexpected two-year-sentence was swayed by “Politics, because they had already decided to send him away. Our lawyer there said that Andre was also shocked.”
She added that though an appeal was expected to be filed Wednesday “the Foreign Ministry cannot help and the embassy there is in shambles. We’re pretty much on our own with this and we need all the help we can get.
“If he’s sent to jail, he’ll probably be incarcerated farther from the Israeli border, perhaps in Cairo, which will make it harder for us to visit him. We ask for the help of anyone who knows the Egyptian legal system… any help would be welcome.”
When he was first apprehended, Pshenichnikov was suspected of taking pictures of secret security facilitiesin Taba. Egyptian sources reported that he admitted to working with pro-Palestinian organizations and had entered Sinai in order to execute a “dangerous mission commissioned by Israel’s defense establishment.”
Pshenichnikov immigrated to Israel from Tajikistan 11 years ago. Last year, he lived near a Palestinian refugee campin the Bethlehem area in an attempt to prove that Israelis and Arabs can coexist.
His mother told Ynet that her son 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 got him a ticket to Paris. He just returned recently.”
“He’s an Israeli citizen,” the mother reiterated. “I beg that they bring him back. I’m afraid that he may not be held by the police, but by a group of terrorists. I ask for help, and if the state won’t help, I ask for permits to go there myself – that they let my husband and I cross the border.”