Ambassador says insults to Saudi monarch ‘unacceptable’

Saudi Ambassador to Cairo and Arab League Representative Ahmed al-Qattan has slammed the attacks leveled by Egyptian activists on Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz as “unacceptable demagogy.”

Egyptian activists have criticized Saudi Arabia’s monarch over the detention of an Egyptian lawyer and rights activist, Ahmed al-Gizawy, who news reports said had been accused of insulting the Saudi king and sentenced to 20 lashes.

Gizawy was reportedly detained last week when he arrived in Saudi Arabia to perform the holy Muslim ritual of Umra pilgrimage.

The lawyer has been a vocal critic of Saudi authorities’ treatment of Egyptian workers and an advocate of the rights of Egyptian detainees there.

He had also filed a lawsuit against the king, accusing him of practicing arbitrary detention and physical abuse against Egyptian nationals, and demanding that he release and compensate the detainees.

But a statement by the Saudi embassy in Cairo on Tuesday said security apprehended Gizawy for possessing narcotic pills when he arrived at King Abdul Aziz International Airport. The same statement denied earlier reports, saying they were fabricated and exaggerated.

“If Gizawy was to be punished for lese-majesty, many others would be receiving the same punishment,” Qattan said in a phone call with Al-Hayat satellite channel late Tuesday, using the legal term for insulting or injuring royalty.

He stressed that the Egyptian Embassy in Saudi Arabia is fully informed of details of the issue.

“There are Saudi nationals who have been convicted for drug-related crimes in Egypt, but we did not object to that,” Qattan added.

Hundreds of activists staged a protest in front of the Saudi Embassy in Cairo on Tuesday to demand Gizawy’s release.

Egyptian Ambassador to Riyadh Mahmoud Ouf also told Al-Youm satellite channel on Tuesday that Gizawy admitted to drug possession, and added that Saudi authorities did not sentence him to lashing as reported.

Meanwhile, the April 6 Youth Movement called upon Saudi authorities to release the security video record of Gizawy’s arrest to prove whether he really possessed drugs. The group’s political bureau member, Ingy Hamdy, said the authorities’ failure to provide that evidence proves the charges had been fabricated.

A statement by the group on Tuesday called for a protest outside the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to demand the lawyer’s release.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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