Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1121, 8-14 November
Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Issue 1121, 8-14 November

Ahram Weekly

Justice denied

Relatives of Egyptian citizens detained in Saudi Arabia without charge begin a sit-in in front of the Saudi embassy, reports Doaa El-Bey

Al-Ahram Weekly

“We came here to stay until we see tangible progress being made over the problem of Egyptians detained in Saudi Arabia,” Sherine Farid, general coordinator of the Association of the Families of Egyptians Detained in Saudi Arabia, told Al-Ahram Weekly on Monday noon during a protest in front of the heavily-secured Saudi Embassy in Cairo. Family members of 40 Egyptians detained in Saudi prisons took part in the demonstration.
A simultaneous sit-in was staged in front of the Saudi Consulate in Alexandria to protest against the government’s failure to respond to the requests of the detainees’ families.
“We are demanding immediate intervention from the Egyptian government, and from President Mohamed Morsi himself. We need a government official to tell us when exactly Egyptians detained in Saudi Arabia will be released,” read a statement issued by the pressure group on Monday.
It is, says Farid, the fourth sit-in to be organised by the association since it was formed in December 2011.
“We also have also held 60 separate protests over the issue, most of them in front of the Saudi embassy and the Foreign Ministry. Protest number 53 was held in front of the presidential palace in Orouba. We have sent more than 20 appeals to President Morsi, asking to meet him. After failing to get a response we are determined to stay here until the government reacts.”
Umm Mustafa is the mother of one of the youngest detainees. “I will remain until my son and sole breadwinner’s problem is solved,” she says.  
Her son, 24-year-old Mustafa Al-Baradei, arrived in Saudi Arabia three years ago to work as a computer technician. He was detained four months after his arrival but never charged. He claims to have been tortured and forced to sign a paper falsely stating that he had been well-treated and his employer had fulfilled all contractual obligations. He signed that paper seven months ago yet remains in prison.
In a letter sent to the association in August the Foreign Ministry said 38 Egyptians were being held in Saudi prisons without charges. Among them is radiologist Abdel-Wahab Abul-Hassan. Although his release was ordered by a judge more than seven months ago he is still in jail.
“I demand a fair trial in which my brother faces clear charges, has access to a lawyer and which is conducted in the presence of members of the Egyptian consulate,” says Mohamed.
Khaled Al-Ghazali, another Egyptian doctor detained in Saudi Arabia, was acquitted a year ago. He, too, remains in prison.
The presence of Mohamed Maher Al-Saadani among the protesters was taken by many as a sign of hope. He was released 45 days ago after seven months in prison. He had left Saudi Arabia a day before the Battle of the Camel and on arriving in Egypt headed straight to Tahrir Square to join the anti-Mubarak protests. On returning to Saudi Arabia he was detained and questioned about his role in the revolution. “It was only then that I realised how closely the two states’ state security bodies cooperated,” he says.
He says he was tortured whilst in detention. His greatest wish is to see the prisoners he met while being detained, men like Mohamed Al-Tarhouni and Khaled Moussa who have been incarcerated for more than seven years, released.
Since it was set up, the association has repeatedly approached the Foreign Ministry for help. Members met with Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr earlier this year and have repeatedly requested that a delegation representing the families of the detainees be dispatched to meet officials at the Saudi foreign and interior ministries. No arrangement for the visit has been made.
Naglaa Wafa and Ahmed Al-Gizawi are among the best known Egyptian detainees in Saudi Arabia. Wafa, an Egyptian businesswoman, was sentenced to five years in prison and 500 lashes following a quarrel with one of the daughters of the Saudi king. Human rights activists have denounced the sentence as inhumane. Wafa has already received 400 lashes.
The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights has sent four complaints to the UN over Wafa’s treatment.
Al-Gizawi was arrested in April by the Saudi authorities while performing the omra, and charged with smuggling prohibited pharmaceuticals into the country. His family claim the charges were fabricated and he was really detained because of his criticism of the kingdom and its treatment of Egyptians.
Protests in support of Al-Gizawi openly criticised the Saudi king, causing Saudi Arabia to recall its ambassador and temporarily close its embassy in May.
Al-Gizawi’s trial began in September but was then postponed until 14 November.
The Foreign Ministry insists Wafa and Al-Gizawi have been provided with all necessary legal support.
Saudi Arabia has the largest Egyptian expatriate community of any country. Two million Egyptians work in the kingdom. Egyptian human rights activists have repeatedly accused Saudi Arabian officials of mistreating Egyptian nationals working there.
The Association of the Families of Egyptians Detained in Saudi Arabia insists a solution to the issue of Egyptians detained in Saudi prisons without charges or trial is in the hands of President Morsi. “We hold Dr Morsi responsible for the file and call on him to resolve it as soon as possible because he experienced injustice, detention and oppression just like our children,” said a statement issued by the association.

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