Egypt said on Tuesday it was closely following the case of an Egyptian rights lawyer arrested in Saudi Arabia that has revived long-standing resentment over the treatment of Egyptians working in the oil-rich kingdom.
Rights activists, meanwhile, were planning a protest later that day outside the Saudi Embassy in Cairo to press demands for the release of the lawyer, Ahmed el-Gezawi.
Anti-Saudi sentiment has flared on a number of occasions in recent years following reports that an Egyptian national has been mistreated in the kingdom or experienced a miscarriage of justice in a Saudi court.
Egyptian activists say Cairo has in the past refused to take a strong stand to protect citizens in Saudi Arabia so as not to alienate the wealthy rulers of the kingdom, or endanger the millions of jobs that Egyptians hold in Saudi Arabia.
El-Gezawi’s sister, Sheren, told a private Egyptian television channel on Monday night that her brother was arrested upon his April 17 arrival in the Saudi port of Jiddah.
She said he had been previously convicted in absentia and sentenced to a year in prison and 20 lashes by a Saudi court for insulting the king. El-Gezawi had filed a lawsuit in Egypt against Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah over the alleged arbitrary detention of hundreds of Egyptians living in the kingdom.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Amr Rushdi said Cairo was in constant contact with Saudi authorities over the arrest.
The ministry, he said, would not participate in “feeding media campaigns that aim at … inciting public opinion.” He added: “Citizens should think about how they voice their views and whether they would serve the interests of the detained citizen or make it worse … This is not a football match.”
In 2008, another case involving Egyptians living in Saudi Arabia caused public uproar, when two Egyptian doctors were sentenced to seven years in prison and 700 lashes each for illegally selling pharmaceuticals and allegedly driving a Saudi princess to drug addiction, accordimg to AP.
The Egyptian media and human rights groups said the doctors had been wrongly blamed for the princess’ alleged addiction. They demanded that now-ousted president Hosni Mubarak, who had close ties with the Saudi king and royal family, to intervene.