Egyptian engineer on death row in Saudi Arabia

Egypt is appealing to the Saudi authorities to reconsider putting an Egyptian engineer to death, sending evidence that he was used to smuggle drugs and did not knowingly commit a crime.

al-monitor Egyptian engineer Ali Abul-Qasim is seen in a picture uploaded Oct. 5, 2019. Photo by Twitter/@12101992soso.

Topics covered

smuggling, drug trade, narcotics, saudi government, saudi-egyptian relations, abdel fattah al-sisi, egyptian government, death row, death penalty

Oct 21, 2019

CAIRO — The Egyptian Ministry for Immigration and Egyptian Expatriates Affairs revealed Oct. 9 that, upon the instructions of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, it has been in communication with Egypt's Public Prosecutor Hamada al-Sawy about the case of Egyptian engineer Ali Abul-Qasim, sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia.

According to the statement, published by Shourouk newspaper, Sawy confirmed that his office is following the case closely through contacts with the Supreme Court in Riyadh.

Ali Abul-Qasim Abdel Warith had been working as a civil engineer in Saudi Arabia since 2007. The Saudi Anti-Narcotics Department arrested him on charges of smuggling narcotic pills known as Captagon, banned in the kingdom. He allegedly received a shipment of equipment that contained the drugs through Saudi Arabian customs.

Qasim was sentenced to death by three judges, and the verdict was then ratified by five other judges in the Appeals Chamber in October 2017.

On Nov. 29, 2018, the Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia agreed to hear Qasim’s appeal and ordered that the case be returned to the Court of Appeals.

Social media activists shared videos of Qasim’s wife Ibtisam Salama appealing to Sisi to intervene and save her husband. She asserted that she holds documents proving her husband's innocence.

The Egyptian Ministry of Interior arrested other suspects on July 20, 2018, who implicated her husband in importing a shipment of pavement equipment for Saudi Arabia in his name but said he had not known that it contained narcotics.

Activists started using an Arabic hashtag that means “Save Engineer Ali from the Death Penalty” on Facebook and Twitter. They called on Sisi and Egyptian officials to intervene to save his life and rescind his death sentence.

On Oct. 5, the Egyptian Ministry for Immigration and Egyptian Expatriates Affairs highlighted the efforts made in Qasim’s case in the government newspaper Al-Ahram. The ministry had contacted a large number of Saudi Arabian and Egyptian authorities and held meetings with the Egyptian consulate and embassy in Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Embassy in Cairo.

The ministry pointed out that it had asked higher Egyptian authorities to send an official request to the Saudi Arabian authorities to re-open the investigation based on the Egyptian judiciary's conviction of seven other Egyptians in the case. The ministry noted that it submitted documents proving Qasim’s innocence, pointing to witnesses testimonies in Egypt that proved he was unaware of a shipment of narcotics imported by his company and received by him while in Saudi Arabia.

Qasim's cousin Mahmoud Hassan told Al-Monitor that the Egyptian Foreign Ministry has cooperated with the Egyptian Ministry for Immigration and Egyptian Expatriates Affairs and the Egyptian judicial and security authorities to relay evidence of Qasim's innocence. “Qasim fell prey to a drug trafficking gang when he agreed to the request to import a shipment of pavement equipment in Saudi Arabia, without knowing that it contains narcotic substances.”

A senior Egyptian judicial source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that Sawy had contacted the Supreme Court in Riyadh, which stated that it was still examining the case and that no final verdict had been issued. The source refuted news and rumors about a final death sentence for Qasim and its approaching implementation. “The court has yet to adjudicate his case since it has [agreed to hear] the appeal against the first instance decision putting him on the death row.”

“The Ministry of Immigration and Egyptian Expatriates Affairs is communicating with the Egyptian Public Prosecutor's Office and the Egyptian and Saudi Arabian judicial authorities on an ongoing basis to examine the latest developments of the case and try to intervene to calm the situation and reveal the truth to the Saudi Arabian side.”

The source revealed that Egypt appealed to the Saudi authorities to consider the possibility of a royal pardon for the Egyptian engineer after Qasim’s family made several pleas for help.

In a telephone interview with Al-Monitor, Egyptian political newspaper editor Ayman Samir denied rumors of a rift between Egypt and Saudi Arabia because of Qasim’s case, saying, “There is high-level coordination between the two sides to get to the bottom of this case.”

He confirmed that the Egyptian Ministry of Interior briefed Saudi Arabia on the results of its investigation after arresting its suspects in the case. “The perpetrators confessed that Qasim was unaware of the existence of drug shipments hidden inside the machine parts supplied to the kingdom,” he said. Samir expects an imminent acquittal or pardon for Qasim.

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