Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday announced that Saudi Arabia had decided to free a number of Egyptian prisoners currently languishing in Saudi jails within the next few days.
“There are only a handful of Egyptian prisoners in Saudi Arabia, divided into two groups,” said Ahmed Rageb, assistant foreign minister for consular and immigration affairs. “The first are those who received jail sentences for crimes committed. We can’t do anything about these, because they’re being treated according to Saudi law.”
“Those in the second group, however, will be released before the end of October, in line with an agreement we reached with Saudi ambassador to Cairo Ahmed Al-Qattan,” added Rageb.
The former Egyptian regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, dismantled following Egypt’s January’s uprising, had been frequently accused of neglecting Egyptians living and working abroad. The regime came in for especially fierce criticism following the case of Marwa El-Sherbini, an Egyptian woman killed in a German courtroom in 2009, and Ahmed Abdel-Aziz, a young Egyptian man stabbed to death by South American immigrants one year later in Milan.
According to Rageb, 402 Egyptian nationals are currently imprisoned in Kuwait; 75 in Iraq; 15 in the US; three in Russia; two in Thailand; and two in Australia. The ministry, he noted, was unaware of the exact number of Egyptians currently detained by Israeli authorities.
Rageb went on to say that no official decision had yet been made on whether Ilan Grapel, detained by Egyptian authorities in June on suspicions of spying for Israel, would be used in a possible prisoner swap with Tel Aviv.
“That decision isn’t ours alone to take,” he said. “There are other authorities who must decide such matters.”