Egypt: Saudis arrest activist, protests in Cairo

Incident increases tension between two historic allies

25 April, 15:59

    Protest outside Saudi Embassy against the arrest of Egyptian lawyer Protest outside Saudi Embassy against the arrest of Egyptian lawyer

    (ANSAmed) - CAIRO - From historic allies during the 30-year regime of Hosni Mubarak, Saudi Arabia and Egypt now find themselves in the midst of a diplomatic feud after an Egyptian activist was arrested upon his arrival at Jeddah airport on April 17.

    Dozens of demonstrators protested outside the Saudi embassy in Cairo yesterday and outside the Foreign Ministry today, demanding the release of Ahmed Mohamed Sarwat El Sayed, known as Ahmed el-Gizawi, a lawyer and activist who was arrested as he arrived with his wife in Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage to Mecca.

    According to some Egyptian human rights organisations, the man was arrested after being sentenced in absentia to a year in prison and 20 lashes for criticising the Saudi authorities for their heavy-handed treatment of Egyptians detained in Saudi prisons.

    The reply from the Saudi ambassador in Cairo, Ahmed Adel Aziz Qattan, was immediate and clear, with the Saudi diplomat calling the reports in the Egyptian media ''false'' and claiming that the man had never been sentenced but had been arrested over possession of 21,000 anti-depressant pills, with the substance in question considered an illegal drug in the Kingdom. The ambassador added that the pills were hidden in powdered milk for children and inside the front covers of two copies of the Koran.

    Egypt's Foreign Minister has today moved to ask the Egyptian embassy in Riyadh and the consulate in Jeddah to monitor El-Gizawi's situation closely and constantly. The spokesperson for Egypt's Foreign Ministry said that ''urgent'' contacts were taking place, but el-Gizawi's sister Shereen, also a lawyer, has slammed the Egyptian authorities for acting only a week after her brother's arrest and after his appeal for help.

    Shereen el-Gizawi said in an interview with Al Ahram's website that she had only become aware of the situation involving her brother by chance on Facebook. ''I have tried all legal avenues to help my brother. Now is the time for public pressure,'' she explained, adding that her brother had spent two days in detainment at Jeddah airport before being taken to the Terman prison. ''We do not know if he is still there or if he has been moved''.

    The National Council for Human Rights, an Egyptian NGO, has today appealed to the Military Council to intervene as soon as possible to ensure the el-Gizawi's release and the overturn of his sentence. (ANSAmed).

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