Egypt's National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) has called on the ruling military council to open negotiations with Saudi Arabian authorities in an effort to secure the release of detained Egyptian lawyer Ahmed El-Gizawi.
At its monthly meeting, the NCHR, under the chairmanship of former UN secretary-general Boutros-Boutros Ghali, criticised the arrest of El-Gizawi, who was subsequently sentenced by Saudi authorities to 20 lashes and one year in prison.
El-Gizawi was detained on 17 April while visitingthe oil-rich gulf state to perform the Islamic umrah pilgrimageand later charged with "defaming" the Saudi monarch. On Tuesday, however, Saudi ambassador to Egypt Ahmed Abdel-Aziz Qattan asserted that the Egyptian lawyer had been arrested after being found in possession of illegal drugs.
On Tuesday, Egypt's ambassador to Saudi Arabia Mahmoud Ouf appeared to support the Saudi position on the issue. "El-Gizawi confessed to possessing drugs," the diplomat said in televised comments. "Egyptian authorities have seen his written confession; He wasn't arrested for political reasons."
El-Gizawi's defenders, meanwhile, reacted to Ouf's statements with anger.
"Is there a diplomat who condemns citizens of his own country in the absence of a fair trial?" prominent Egyptian writer Alaa Al-Aswany posted on Twitter on Tuesday night. "The Saudi judicial system is at odds with the standards of international justice."
On Wednesday afternoon, dozens of Egyptian political activists marched to the Saudi embassy in Cairo to demand their compatriot's release. A similar demonstration took place in front of the embassy on Tuesday.