Egypt’s Foreign Ministry has asked its diplomats in Saudi Arabia to contact local authorities to seek the release of an Egyptian citizen detained there for insulting the kingdom's monarch, ministry Spokesperson Amr Roshdy said Tuesday.
Ahmed al-Gizawy, a lawyer and a human rights activist, was detained last week when he arrived in Saudi Arabia to perform the holy Muslim pilgrimage of Umra. He had been sentenced in absentia to 20 lashes before arriving, though he had not been notified of this beforehand.
Gizawy 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 King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, accusing him of practicing arbitrary detention and physical abuse against Egyptian nationals, and demanding the detainees be released and compensated.
Roshdy stressed that Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr is following up developments in Gizawy's case from Addis Ababa, where he is attending an African Union summit.
"Egypt's ambassador in Riyadh, Mahmoud Ouf, has also canceled his annual vacation to keep in touch with the case," Roshdy said. "Ouf already convened with the Saudi interior ministry official, Prince Saud bin Nayef, to discuss the same issue."
Roshdy said though the ministry understands Egyptians' anger over Gizawy's arrest, Egyptians should consider whether the way they express their anger will help or harm Gizawy's cause.
News about Gizawy's detention at an unknown destination has enraged many social network users, who have unleashed scathing criticisms of the Saudi king.
"Our ministry will only focus on practical measures that would help in solving the issue, and will not stoke the media campaign to avoid fueling public fury," Roshdy said.
"This is a legal issue that will determine the fate of an Egyptian detained abroad — it is not a football match dispute for which we are free to vent out our anger," Roshdy added.
Edited translation from MENA