A Saudi court on Wednesday charged Egyptian lawyer Ahmed al-Gizawi, whose arrest sparked a diplomatic crisis, with drug trafficking, a charge that could carry a death penalty, a rights activist said.
"The public prosecution at a court in (the Red Sea city of) Jeddah called for sentencing Gizawi to death... as he was handed over his charge sheet" in a first hearing of the trial, said the activist, requesting anonymity.
The next hearing is to take place on September 5.
In April, Gizawi travelled to Saudi Arabia with his wife to perform the omra, a minor pilgrimage to Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, western Saudi Arabia, when he was detained at Jeddah airport.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, an Egyptian organisation, said Gizawi was held following a sentence of one year in prison and 20 lashes delivered against him in absentia for criticising the Saudi government.
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According to the group, Gizawi was being targeted for his activism in favour of Egyptian detainees in Saudi prisons.
But the Saudi ambassador to Cairo, Ahmed Adel Aziz Qattan, said Gizawi was arrested for possessing 21,380 tablets of Zanak, which is prohibited in the kingdom without medical approval.
The drugs were allegedly hidden in children's milk cartons and two copies of the Koran.
His arrest sparked angry protests outside the Saudi embassy in Cairo, prompting the kingdom to recall its ambassador.
The Saudi mission was reopened in May after the monarch received a high ranking Egyptian delegation sent to defuse tension between the two Arab countries.
Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for drug trafficking among a list of other offences, based on Islamic sharia law.