AN Egyptian lawyer whose arrest on drug smuggling charges in Saudi Arabia last year caused a diplomatic row between Riyadh and Cairo was sentenced to five years in prison and 300 lashes yesterday, a witness said.

The case has been closely watched by Egyptian activists who say Ahmed al Gezawi was arrested because of his work documenting what he described as the poor treatment of Egyptians working in Saudi Arabia, which Riyadh denies.

Gezawi was charged with smuggling 21,000 pills of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.

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His former lawyer said the public prosecution was seeking the death penalty.