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Egypt: Anger at Arrest of Lawyer in Saudi Arabia

A lot has been going on in Egypt in the past few weeks, such as the preparation for the presidential elections, and the clashes in Abbassiya. On top of that, diplomatic relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been under pressure because of the arrest of the Egyptian lawyer Ahmed El Gizawy in Saudi Arabia.

El Gizawy was arrested as soon as he arrived in Saudi Arabia on April 17 for pilgrimage. News reports stated that he was sentenced to 20 lashes for “defaming the Saudi king”, referring to El Gizawy's criticism made on television of Saudi Arabia's imprisonment of a number of Egyptian citizens.

Ahmed El Gizawy. Image taken from Egyptian Chronicles blog.

Egyptians received the news with rage both online and offline. A special hashtag was created for tweets attacking the Saudi king; it can loosely be translated as “Screw You, Royal Highness” [ar]. In addition, protesters gathered in front of the Saudi embassy in Cairo to condemn the arrest of the Egyptian lawyer.

Saudi officials later denied that El Gizawy was arrested for defaming the king, and they claimed instead he was arrested after being found in possession of more than 21,000 pills of the anti-depressant drug, Xanax.

Egyptians don't buy this claim; they wondered how El Gizawy was able to smuggle such a huge number of pills, and why the Saudi authorities did not announce that the arrest was because of drug trafficking from day one. In addition the authorities at Cairo airport said that they did not notice anything illegal in his luggage [ar] when leaving the country.

Writer Alaa Al Aswany said:

Al-Gizawi is a brave revolutionary lawyer who defended many of the rebels before military courts. He then took the cases of Egyptian workers in Saudi Arabia who were detained without trial, thus finding himself in litigation with the Saudi king himself. When al-Gizawi and his wife went to perform umrah (pilgrimage to Mecca), he was assured that the Saudi regime would not be able to punish him for his political positions, as under Islamic law, all those who go on a pilgrimage are untouchable. Unfortunately, al-Gizawi was arrested as soon as he landed in Saudi Arabia. Those who asked about him were told that he would be whipped and imprisoned for insulting the king of Saudi Arabia. Two days later, Saudi authorities announced that they found more than 21,000 drug tablets on al-Gizawi. This silly accusation is not worth discussion. Al-Gizawi is a brave fighter who got arrested several times in defense of his principles. What made him suddenly turn into a drug dealer? Is he stupid enough to travel with such a high amount of drugs through the Cairo airport, where baggage X-rays make it impossible to transfer that many drugs? Moreover, the quantity of that many tablets weighs more than 60 kilos, and the baggage weight limit is only 30 kilos. According to the records of the Cairo airport, the weight of al-Gizawi and his wife’s bag did not exceed the limit.

Zeinobia commented:

Young Egyptians on social networks do not buy the Saudi statement as it reminded them of the case of Khaled Said and how the ministry of interior in Egypt fabricated the drug story about him.

Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported [ar] that El Gizawy had previously filed a lawsuit in Egypt against the Saudi ambassador regarding the detention of torture of a number of Egyptian citizens in Saudi Arabia.

Zeinobia referred to another Egyptian detainee:

Now it is not only the case of Gizawy that we should follow and work on , I think we should work on the case of other Egyptians allegedly arrested and detained for years in the Kingdom for no reason like for instance the case of Abdullah Mamdouh [ar]. Mamdouh was detained from four years ago for no reason according to his wife Israa Kamal [ar] who is campaigning online and offline for him.

The Saudi government closed its embassy in Cairo in response to the protests there, in the worst diplomatic rift in years between the two countries. However the Saudi ambassador returned to Egypt a week later, after a high-level Egyptian delegation went to Riyadh led by Saad El Katatny, Muslim Brotherhood member and the current speaker of Egypt’s parliament.

As'ad Abou-Khalil wrote about the visit in a post entitled, “Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood bows down to House of Saud“:

Such an opportunity to meet with the Saudi king would likely not have arisen in the short to medium term had Gizawy's case not been escalated by Egyptian activists. During the visit, Katatny clearly stated, “We will not interfere in Gizawy's case,” adding that “the Saudi justice system is fair.” Katatny stressed the “historic relations” between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and said that Saudi has “white hands” (Arabic for “a shining track record”) in backing Egypt. Katatny again remarked that Egypt and Saudi Arabia, “the two greatest powers in the region,” could lead the region into a bright future.

Ahmed El Gizawy remains in detention in Saudi Arabia, awaiting trial.

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