Public outrage has been growing in Egypt, following news on Monday that Egyptian lawyer Ahmed El-Gizawi had been arrested on 17 April at an airport in Saudi Arabia. El-Gizaw i had been sentenced in absentia to one year’s imprisonment and 20 lashings for "defaming the king" - the ruler of Saudi Arabia - in a television interview. The lawyer was arrested during his visit to the country to undertake the Islamic umrah pilgrimage with his wife.
Ahmed's sister Shereen El-Gizawi , who is also a lawyer, spoke to Ahram Online about her brother’s case and the legal procedures she has been initiating she found out about the news. She said that her brother had been working on the cases of detained and tortured Egyptians in Saudi Arabia for a long time, and had therefore been criticising the Saudi government and Saudi king.
She explained that after her brother was arrested, he remained in Jeddah's airport jail from Tuesday to Thursday, and was then transferred to the public prosecutor "without even questioning him." Afterwards, he was sent to Terman prison in Jeddah, but it is unknown whether or not he is still there.
Shereen said she was not aware when these events were taking place. "We have not been notified by the Saudi or Egyptian government. I don't know whose fault it is,” she said, explaining that she found out about her brother's case coincidentally through Facebook on Saturday.
On Monday, she went to Egypt's prosecutor-general Abdel-Magid Mahmoud and filed a case demanding Egyptian authorities support her brother in his case. Afterwards she went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanding the same.
Shereen El-Gizawi explained that what was provocative for her was the fact that the foreign ministry knew about the case since the 17 of April, yet did not do anything about it "until yesterday (Monday) when I asked them to.”
She also added that nobody had even notified the family about her brother's case. “Ahmed had absolutely no idea before he travelled that he was sentenced in absentia.”
The foreign minister promised on Tuesday that the Egyptian ambassador in Saudi Arabia would begin taking actions and investigate El-Gizawi’s case.
The Egyptian consul in Saudi Arabia called El-Gizawi's wife on Monday - after Shereen had contacted the foreign ministry - to reassure her that they are going to handle her husband's case.
Their flight's supervisor demanded that his wife be kept in the country, or else she would be considered “a fugitive in the country - which I don't understand," Shereen said, adding that his wife was not even told where El-Gizawi was taken.
Shereen El-Gizawi also went to the people's assembly (the lower house of Egypt's parliament) on Tuesday, in an exceptional session with various MPs such as Ziad El-Eleimy, Amr Hamzawy, and Magdi Qorqor. However, when she asked them if anything in particular could be done or a specific promise could be given to her regarding her brother’s case, "they just smiled and said nothing."
She added that some MPs said that they should avoid escalating the issue and respect Saudi Arabia’s privacy as a country. "I told them we should respect the privacy of the Egyptian citizen, who has been arrested there as well."
A protest, called for by El-Gizawi’s sister and various political activists, took place on Tuesday in front of the Saudi Embassy. Another protest was also planned in front of the Saudi consulate in Alexandria.
Shereen El-Gizawi said she has tried all possible legal processes now. "I’m also willing to meet the Saudi ambassador and discuss my brother’s case with him ," she commented. "I have tried every legal way to help my brother. Now it's time for the public's pressure."
By Sarah Mourad