Security scuffled with protesters and media outside the Saudi Embassy in Cairo where protesters had gathered to demand the release of Ahmed Al-Gizawy.
Al-Gizawy is an Egyptian lawyer who has been sentenced to five years in prison and 300 lashes by the General Court of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. The lashes will be administered 50 lashes at a time.
While the media interviewed protesters, plain clothed security men asked them to step back and stand behind metal barriers. The situation became tense when a couple of young protesters decided to pull the metal barriers away to let the media approach the protesters.
A brief scuffle ensued and the media managed to get back to the protesters.
Following the scuffle Shereen Al-Gizawy, Ahmed’s sister, gave an emotional speech to the media: “When we first started our protest, Egyptian security stopped us and I think you took pictures of them when they were going to beat me, Ahmed’s wife and my brother.”
She said President Mohamed Morsy had promised Al-Gizawy would be with his family by August 2012, for Ramadan.
Al-Gizawy’s brother Hesham said: “We are planning to hold a sit-in today and if that does not work, we will escalate using other methods.”
Al-Gizawy was arrested on 17 April, 2012. He was on his way to perform Umrah (minor pilgrimage) in Mecca but was detained in the King Abdul Aziz airport. He was accompanied by his wife, Shahenda Al-Gizawy.
Saudi authorities accused Al-Gizawy of smuggling over 20,000 pills of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.
During her statement outside the embassy, Shereen said the drugs were found in milk cartons dated 20 April, 2012. “Which means that the case is fixed,” she said.
Al-Gizawy has denied the charges against him, state-run news agency MENA reported.
The Egyptian consulate in Jeddah is appealing the verdict. Hesham said: “We know it is pointless because they are targeting Ahmed because he worked on a case about Egyptian detainees in Saudi Arabia.”
Shereen demanded the immediate halt of the verdict and Morsy’s immediate involvement. Al-Gizawy’s wife also demanded an investigation with the security.
Earlier this week, the assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Aly Al-Asheery met with Al-Gizawy’s family and updated them on Al-Gizawy’s case. During the meeting, Al-Asheery received a plea from Al-Gizawy’s family to the King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to grant Al-Gizawy pardon.
“We are the wronged people and we are the ones who demanded mercy,” Al-Gizawy’s sister said.
In addition to Al-Gizawy, Egyptian national Islam Bakr and a Saudi national and were also tried in the same case. Bakr was sentenced to six years in prison and 400 lashes.
Smuggling drugs can be punishable by 15 years in prison or even death in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Gizawy’s arrest led to tensions between Egypt and Saudi, sparking widespread protests in Egypt. Following the protests Saudi Arabia temporarily recalled its ambassador and closed its embassy and consulate in Egypt.
There are over 1.7 million Egyptians living in Saudi Arabia, making the expatriate community there the largest Egyptian expatriate community in a single country.
Three delegations have travelled to the United Arab Emirates to resolve the recent tensions caused by detention of 11 Egyptians in the Gulf country. They are accused of being part of a Muslim Brotherhood cell.
Al-Gizawy’s sister asked: “I am sorry to say this to the families of the people in the Emirates, but why did Morsy move for you and not move for Al-Gizawy?”
Following her speech, the protesters started chanting for Al-Gizawy’s release. Among the chants were anti-Muslim Brotherhood chants.