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El-Gizawi case to be transferred to Saudi pre-trial committee

Egyptian lawyer Ahmed El-Gizawi - at centre of diplomatic fracas between Egypt and Saudi Arabia - to face drug possession charges, case to be passed to pre-trial committee, verdict expected in 18 days

Ahram Online, Tuesday 1 May 2012
Ahmed El-Gizawi
Egyptian lawyer Ahmed El-Gizawi
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Ahmed El-Gizawi, the Egyptian lawyer at the centre of a diplomatic spat between Egypt and Saudi Arabia has had charges against him of possessing illegal pharmaceutical drugs referred to a religious court, according to the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper Tuesday.

He was arrested on 18 April and a verdict is normally delivered after 30 days.

Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Cairo and closed its diplomatic missions in Egypt on Saturday after protests outside its embassy following a sentence of one year in prison and 20 lashes were delivered against El-Gizawi in absentia for criticism of the Saudi government. The ambassador has since returned to Cairo. Saudi authorities have maintained that he was arrested for trying to smuggle 20,000 anti-anxiety pills into the Kingdom.

The case will be transferred to a committee that will decide whether to call for the death penalty, amputation or stoning before passing the case onto a religious court.

Saudi Arabian law prohibits importing or exporting anti-anxiety drugs except with a license from the Health Ministry. In addition, the Kingdom has a number of agreements with other countries for arresting people who smuggle such drugs.

The General Prosecution and Investigative Authority started investigating El-Gizawi on Tuesday after he was transferred from the Drug Administration on charges of drug possession.

The Saudi National Assembly for Human Rights assigned lawyer Suleiman El-Hanini to defend El-Gizawi.

In a telephone interview with the Saudi Al-Madina newspaper on Tuesday, El-Hanini said he met El-Gizawi during investigative sessions at the authority's premises in Jeddah where they discussed the lawsuit and El-Gizawi agreed that El-Hanini would be his lawyer.

El-Hanini confirmed that El-Gizawi did not experience any harassment, verbal or physical violence and was not chained when he met him.

Al-Hayat also reported that Saudi authorities might ask Interpol to investigate how El-Gizawi was able to travel from Cairo international airport carrying large amounts of pharmaceutical drugs without coordinating with Saudi Authorities despite security agreements between the two countries.

A diplomatic row between the two countries was triggered on 18 April after the arrest of El-Gizawi by Saudi authorities. Following his detention, dozens of Egyptian demonstrators staged a sit-in outside the Saudi embassy in Cairo. 

El-Gizawi was detained for allegedly "defaming the king" after he filed a lawsuit in a South Cairo court against Saudi monarch King Abdullah Bin Abdel Aziz Al-Saud.

The lawyer filed the lawsuit on behalf of Egyptian citizens currently held without charge in Saudi prisons. Saudi authorities, however, maintain that El-Gizawi had been found in possession of large amounts of pharmaceutical drugs, sale of which is illegal in the oil-rich kingdom.

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