- Middle East/North Africa
A Saudi lawyer who had earlier said he would defend an Egyptian detained in Saudi Arabia for allegedly attempting to smuggle drugs into the country two weeks ago has retracted his pledge.
Bassem Alim said he will not defend Ahmed al-Gizawy, the detained Egyptian lawyer and rights activist, after Gizawy apparently confessed to carrying drugs into the country.
Saudi authorities arrested Gizawy on 17 April, sparking anger in Egypt toward the kingdom. Almost 1,000 protesters at a rally Friday at the Saudi Embassy hurled insults at the kingdom's rulers.
Saudi Arabia then recalled its ambassador in Cairo for security reasons, a powerful message to Egypt's rulers about their need to maintain good ties with the Gulf state, which agreed last week to send US$2.7 billion to Cairo in aid.
In a phone call with Hona al-Assema show on CBC satellite channel on Sunday, Alim said, “I sat with Gizawy and talked with him face to face. He said the bags were in the cargo hold. He said there were four bags with him, two of which belonged to him and his wife. He took the other two into his possession before leaving Cairo airport.”
He said he was astonished by what Gizawy said. “Ahmed has a rights insight into matters, so how could he do that?”
Activists in Cairo, including Gizawy's wife, had said earlier in the week that he was detained when he arrived in Jeddah for a Muslim pilgrimage after being sentenced in absentia to a year in prison and 20 lashes for insulting Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.
But the Saudi Embassy on Tuesday denied that version of events, saying the Egyptian lawyer had been detained for possession of more than 21,000 Xanax pills, an anxiety drug banned in Saudi Arabia.
Alim said Gizawy told him he was not aware that the bags contained banned drugs.
Asked why he backtracked on defending Gizawy, Alim said, “I wanted to defend a colleague I believed was subjected to oppression … a rights activist. But after what happened, I can say that my field of work is not crime and smuggling, but cases related to rights.”
He added he heard from the representative of the Egyptian consul who visited Gizawy that Lawyers Syndicate chief Sameh Ashour has contacted a lawyer to defend Gizawy.