Saudi Arabia dropped a “diplomatic bomb” on post-Mubarak Egypt by closing its embassy after huge protests of the arrest of an Egyptian civil rights lawyer who allegedly insulted King Abdullah.
The diplomatic snub came after demonstrators at the embassy demanded the release of the lawyer, Ahmed el-Gezawi, who had filed a lawsuit in Egypt against King Abdullah for allegedly detaining of hundreds of Egyptians.
Saudi officials said he was arrested after arriving in the country for allegedly trying to smuggle drugs into the kingdom, which has a worried eye on the Arab Spring rebellions that have toppled the regimes in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt.
The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the continuing crisis in Bahrain are ominous signs for the Saudi monarchy as Sunni Muslim leaders are being undermined by Shi’ite Muslim majorities. The Brotherhood immediately supported the protesters.
Egypt's military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, has asked King Abdullah to reconsider closing down the embassy, and the regime in Cairo expressed its “regret” for the conduct of some of the demonstrators.
In an apparent effort to calm Egyptian anger at the arrest, Egypt’s official news agency published an alleged confession by the lawyer that he possessed drugs.
The Egyptian news agency also published a copy of what it said was a signed confession by el-Gezawi admitting to drug possession, in a clear attempt to mute Egyptian public anger, which was whipped up by the Brotherhood.
The new dominant force in Egypt stated, "The protesters in the past days were expressing the desire of Egyptians to protect the dignity of their compatriots in Arab countries and a reflection that disrespect for the dignity of Egyptians abroad is no longer acceptable after the revolution.”
The lawyer’s family said a Saudi court already has sentenced him to a year in prison and 20 lashes for insulting the king, even though he was not present at the trial.
The protests in Cairo included chants of “Down, down with Al-Saud!" referring to the Saudi royal family, and the crowd called on the Egyptian regime to expel the Saudi ambassador. Their most anti-Saudi act was to hurl shoes next to a picture of the king, one of the most insulting actions in the Muslim world.