Israel released from prison on Sunday a Lebanese who had completed a six-year jail term on espionage charges and took him to the border with Lebanon  for repatriation.  Nissim Nasser’s release, announced by Israeli authorities, has raised speculation that it is linked to German mediation efforts to secure a prisoner swap between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group. Nasser, who was born in Lebanon to a Jewish mother and a Muslim father, was sentenced in 2002 to six years’ imprisonment after being convicted of spying for Hezbollah. "The prisoner was released from Nitzan Prison near Ramle (in central Israel) and is being escorted by police up north to Rosh Hanikra (on the Lebanese border)," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. "Later in the day he will be transferred to the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) and then to Lebanon," he said.

Simultaneously Hezbollah handed over to the ICRC on the Lebanese side what it said were the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in the summer 2006 war. A senior Israeli official confirmed that the army had received a coffin but said tests had to be carried out on the contents to confirm whether the remains were those of Israeli soldiers. "A coffin apparently containing body parts of soldiers killed during the Second Lebanon War has been transferred by Hezbollah to the IDF (Israeli army) as a gesture for the ongoing negotiations on a prisoner exchange," the official said. "The coffin will be examined and the body parts will be examined to determine whether they indeed belong to Israeli soldiers." Israel and Hezbollah

As Nisr arrived back in his native land, he said he hoped soon to see the release of all Lebanese prisoners from Israeli jails.

"Hopefully we will soon see the return of all Lebanese detainees to Lebanese soil," he said.

Lebanese troops had fanned out across the border town of Naqura, setting up a checkpoint near the main square and inspecting the identity cards of the hundreds of people who had gathered there.

Hezbollah fighters were also out in force across the town, wearing black clothes and yellow hats bearing the words "A victory from God" and blocking the main route into the town.

Nisr arrived at the border in a white, unmarked jeep and was escorted by Israeli police to the crossing point before being driven into the no man’s land between the two countries.

Born in 1968 to a Lebanese Muslim father and an Israeli Jewish mother who converted to Islam, Nisr left Lebanon during the Israeli invasion of 1982 and joined his mother’s family in Israel, where he settled near Tel Aviv.

He held Israeli citizenship at the time of his arrest in 2002.

Nisr’s brother Mohammed said Nessim had told him in a phone call a month ago that "his jailers had placed him in solitary confinement in a bid to persuade him to abandon his plans to return to Lebanon with his two daughters, who are Israeli citizens."

Israel and Hezbollah have carried out a series of exchanges of prisoners and remains over the years.

In the largest, Israel released 400 Palestinians and 31 other people, including 23 Lebanese, in exchange for an Israeli reservist and the remains of three other Israeli soldiers in January 2004.

Last October Israel handed over a Hezbollah prisoner and the remains of two militants in return for the body of an Israeli and information on the fate of a missing airman.