The incident surrounding Ahmed El Gezawi has revived long-standing resentment over the treatment of Egyptians working in the kingdom, which is a destination for more than a million Egyptians job seekers.
It also raises questions about whether the Egyptian government does enough to protect its citizens working in the country or, as many activists claim, curbs its criticism so as not to alienate Riyadh or endanger Egyptian jobs there.
Anti-Saudi sentiment has flared on a number of occasions in recent years following reports of Egyptian nationals being mistreated in the kingdom or experiencing a miscarriage of justice in a Saudi court.
This time, the prominent Egyptian human rights lawyer was arrested upon his April 17 arrival, El Gezawi's sister told a private Egyptian television channel Monday.
El Gezawi flew to Jeddah on his way to perform Umrah to Islam's holy shrines in Mecca and Medina, said Shereen El Gezawi. The fact that he was arrested on his way to perform a religious rite further inflamed Egyptian sentiment.
El Gezawi's sister said he had been convicted in absentia and sentenced to a year in prison and 20 lashes by a Saudi court for insulting the king. El Gezawi had filed a lawsuit in Egypt against King Abdullah over the alleged arbitrary detention of hundreds of Egyptians living in the kingdom. A rights group said he has criticised the monarch in television interviews.
The protesters outside the embassy chanted slogans against King Abdullah and his Al Saud family. Some protesters raised shoes alongside a picture of the king, a sign of deep contempt in the Arab world.
Egypt's foreign ministry said it was closely following the case but warned people not to get too carried away with their anti-Saudi protests. The foreign ministry spokesman Amr Rushdi said Cairo was in constant contact with Saudi authorities over the arrest.