Accusations against Saudi legal system are baseless
The international press (Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, USA Today and others) published recently reports that accuse Saudi legal system of human rights violations. One story was about the arrest of Najla Wafa, which was almost picked verbatim, even the story’s picture, from Ahram online, Almasry Al-Youm and other similar newspapers. The other story was about a protest in Cairo, which was organized by Egyptian human rights organizations, in which some protesters accused the Saudi legal system of human rights violations. Both news stories were published without verifying and taking the point of view of the other side.
The accusations revolve around denying due process of law to Egyptians working in Saudi Arabia. The accusations are: Detention without charge; unlawful conviction and sentencing; prohibition of legal representation; and physical abuse (beating and torture). However, these accusations don’t hold water as we examine the coverage by Ahram online and Almasry Al-Youm of the criminal cases of Ahmed El-Gezawi and Najla Wafa.
From reading these reports, one can deduce that the general persecutor charged El-Gezawi with smuggling illegal drug substance (Xenax anti-depressant drug) into Saudi Arabia, and this crime was planned by El-Gezawi and Islam Baker, who is a fellow country friend and works as an accountant for a well-known Saudi pharmaceutical businessman. Hence, being in the pharmaceutical business, Baker knows well that Xenax sale in Saudi Arabia without medical prescription is illegal and its sale without a prescription is punishable by death penalty.
Nonetheless, both planned to go ahead with the crime by using women as a cover.
As per the plan, Baker’s mother would accompany El-Gezawi and his wife on the same air flight from Cairo to Jeddah under the disguise of performing Umrah. El-Gezawi would conceal the banned drug substances in aluminum-overlaid milk cartons that supposedly fend off x-rays and inside Qur’an’s cover, so the customs would not suspect any illegal drugs in the suitcases. Islam Baker would be at the airport to receive them.
The group arrived at King Abdulaziz Airport. The suitcases that carried the drugs went through the state of the art X-ray machines, and the custom staff were able to detect the hidden pills. However, drug smuggling operation is not usually a one-man show; it involves several accomplices. The Saudi expertise came into play; they let El-Gezawi leave the customs hall to the adjacent arrival hall to make contacts with his accomplices. He purchased mobile phone electronic chip (SIM) from a store in the hall and made phone calls (Gulf News, (Gulf News). Then, El-Gezawi was arrested, and, of course, his mobile phone was confiscated.
It appeared that by looking through his phone contacts, the persecutor was able to locate his accomplice, Islam Baker, and apprehend him. The investigation revealed that Baker’s Saudi sponsor (kafeel) was a well-known pharmaceutical businessperson, and he was also apprehended and jailed under investigation on suspicion of being involved in smuggling drugs (Alwatan). El-Gezawi was also jailed and a week later charged with smuggling 21.380 pills of anti-anxiety drug Xenax.
The Egyptian Consulate in Jeddah was informed about the case, as Amr Rushdi, spokesperson for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said, “Egyptian embassies and consulates abroad have funds or legal authority to appoint lawyers for the defense of Egyptians facing legal action abroad.” (Arab News).
Subsequently, four lawyers were allowed to defend El-Gezawi.
Later, a lawyer quit as a defense counsel because El-Gezawi failed to pay the legal fees, and then the Egyptian Consulate in Jeddah assigned another lawyer.
It is most likely that during the integration process, El-Gezawi confessed to his lawyer, Ahmed El-Rashed that “he carried the pharmaceutical pills in his suitcase, sale of which is illegal in the Kingdom, but only to transport and not to sell them, and that he was not aware that they were illegal.” El-Rashed reported this statement to Al-Hayat television channel (Ahram Online).
Nevertheless, “ignorance of the law excuses no one” (ignorantia legis neminem excusat). This is a universal 101 law principle that first-year law student is fully cognizant of.
During the first court hearing, El-Gezawi denied all wrongdoings. He also denied link to his Egyptian accomplice, Islam Baker. El-Gezawi claimed that his confession was under duress (coerced confession), and, in a theatrical show, he lifted his shirt to show the judge scars on his body, which he claimed were a result of beating and torture. The judge returned the case for further investigation and a medical examination of the alleged physical abuse (Arab News).
The second court hearing took a dramatic turn for El-Gezawi. Though in the first court hearing he denied any knowledge or link to his Egyptian accomplice Islam Baker, El-Gezawi confessed before the judge during the second hearing that Baker came to the airport to receive his mother who was with him in the same flight from Cairo to Jeddah. Alternatively, Baker confessed before the judge that he used his Saudi sponsor’s name and bank card to transfer several money transmittances to El-Gezawi without his knowledge, and all of the accusations made by him against his sponsor that link him to the drug smuggling operation were false, and thus he is innocent.
However, in a desperate attempt to avert death sentence, El-Gezawi claimed that the drugs were placed in his suitcase while he was away in the arrival hall to buy SIM card for his phone.
El-Gezawi’s confession before the judge of his knowledge of his accomplice Islam Baker, in addition to the medical report that negates that he was beaten and tortured to confess might build a strong circumstantial evidence that he committed the crime. However, the next court hearing will determine the outcomes of the case.
As reported in the international press, the other case is that of Najla Wafa. Najla, according to her father, came to Riyadh seven years ago with her husband and two sons to start a business, as she is a wedding planner and flower arrangement expert. She started the business with a Saudi female partner, and the business flourished. Later, another Saudi woman replaced her partner by buying her share of the business.
The new partner gave Najla a check for SR 2 million to start a restaurant business. However, Najla cashed the check and left Riyadh for Cairo without following through with the partnership agreement. She came back to Saudi Arabia and was arrested and jailed. The lawyer of her Saudi partner promised her release if she returns the money. But, Najla’s father claimed that his daughter was jailed without charge and legal representation. As for the charge is it a criminal embezzlement, and the legal representation ought to be provided by the Egyptian embassy as in the case of El-Gezawi.
Briefly, El-Gezawi and his accomplice deceived themselves into believing that they could get away with their crime of smuggling drugs into Saudi Arabia even if they were caught red-handed. They contemplated two scenarios: The technical scenario and the political scenario, and media blackmailing serve both scenarios.
El-Gezawi concealed the illegal drugs in places he thought would not be discovered — aluminum-layered milk cartons and Qur’an’s cover.
El-Gezawi is a lawyer who claims to be a human rights activist, who defended Egyptian workers jailed in Saudi Arabia and filed a lawsuit against the Saudi government in one the Egyptian’s court, and as a result he was sentenced in absentia to one year in prison and 20 lashes for criticizing the Saudi government (Gulf News). But nobody in Saudi Arabia knows about this case and its alleged trivial punishment that does not worth the efforts.
Now, we have seen that all of the accusations of the Saudi legal system of human rights violations by Egyptian human rights organizations were preposterous, baseless and false. We have a clear and wining case of deliberate defamation of this vital official entity to test the regional and international justice systems.
Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Zuhayyan is a Saudi academician based in Riyadh. This article is exclusive to Arab News.
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