Human rights activists in Egypt have called on Saudi Arabia to release an Egyptian woman sentenced to five years in prison and 500 lashes. Wedding designer Naglaa Wafa was found guilty following a business dispute with a princess.
The Los Angeles Times reports that 39-year-old Wafa allegedly “ran foul of a royal in the Saudi kingdom over the finances of a joint business venture”.
Up to 2 million Egyptians live and work in Saudi Arabia. The Egyptian designer and the princess, whom the LATimes does not identify, supposedly planned to open a restaurant together. The business venture reportedly ended with Wafa being accused of doing nothing, except for cashing a royal check.
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights has submitted an official complaint to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women over the conviction and sentence of the designer, a mother of twin teenage boys.
The human rights body said it “gravely condemns the ruling of the Saudi Arabian Authorities to flog an Egyptian national” in what has been described as “a blatant violation of the human right to the safety of body and person as well as a violation of the right to a fair trial.”
According to the statement released by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, Saudi Arabian authorities arrested Wafa at her home in 2009, confiscating personal documents and belongings. She was later transferred to a Criminal Court in Riyadh where she was denied legal representation. Two years later Wafa was found guilty and sentenced to 5 years in prison and 500 strikes with a whip. She was not permitted legal representation throughout 13 court sessions, the statement says.
It’s not the first time Egyptian human-rights activists have accused Saudi Arabian officials of mistreating Egyptian nationals. Earlier this year hundreds of Egyptians staged a protest outside the Saudi Embassy in Cairo demanding the release of an Egyptian lawyer arrested on drug charges when traveling to Saudi Arabia for a pilgrimage.
As a result, Saudi Arabia recalled its Ambassador to Egypt and closed its Embassy in Cairo, with many saying the relations between the two countries hadn’t been worse since Egypt signed the Camp David Peace treaty with Israel in 1979.