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Saudi Arabia: Free Fouad Update

FreeFouad

The leading Saudi blogger, Fouad Alfarhan, who has been arrested in Jeddah on December 10, 2007 for exercising his freedom of speech on his popular blog alfarhan.org has sent a letter few days before his arrest to his friends:

I was told that there is an official order from a high-ranking official in the Ministry of the Interior to investigate me. They will pick me up anytime in the next 2 weeks.

The issue that caused all of this is because I wrote about the political prisoners here in Saudi Arabia and they think I’m running a online campaign promoting their issue. All what I did is wrote some pieces and put side banners and asked other bloggers to do the same.
he asked me to comply with him and sign an apology. I’m not sure if I’m ready to do that. An apology for what? Apologizing because I said the government is liar when they accused those guys to be supporting terrorism?

To expect the worst which is to be jailed for 3 days till we write good feedback about you and let u go

there may be no jial and only apologizing letter. But, if it’s more than three days, it should be out. I don’t want to be forgotten in jail.

According to his wife with whom we talked, Fouad's arrest was directly linked to his blogging activities. He may remain in custody for a one-month investigation period. After that his family will be allowed to visit him and be informed about his case and the possible charges that might be brought against him. Fouad is apparently being held, without charge or trial, at the Ministry of Interior's security service (al-Mabahith al-‘Amma) headquarter in Jeddah. He has been arrested at his office in Jeddah and had been led to his home where police confiscated his laptop computer.

This is not the first time that Fouad has run into trouble with Saudi authorities. Last year, Fouad was questioned by plainclothes police and was forced to shut down his blog. After a hiatus of few months, Fouad decided to continue blogging.

Several bloggers and activists are organizing an online Free Fouad campaign at freefouad.com to call attention to Fouad. As so far, a support group created on Facebook for Fouad has gathered 295 members.

In a statement issued on December 24, 2007, The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information condemned the “unjustified detention” of blogger Fouad Alfarhan and urged the Saudi authorities to reveal the reason of arresting him. “When the Saudi authorities arrest a young man writing maturely and is against terrorism and calls for reformation, it is a serious indicator for how far are the fanatic and those opposing freedom of expression and reformation are taking over in Saudi Arabia,” the executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Mr. Gamal said.

1 comment

  • Salwa

    The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the ongoing detention of a leading pro-reform Saudi blogger who has been held without charge since early this month.

    On December 10, Fouad Ahmed al-Farhan, a 32-year-old blogger who runs the site Alfarhan, was detained by Saudi security agents at the Jeddah office of the IT company he owns, CPJ sources and Saudi blogs have reported. Security agents later visited al-Farhan’s home and confiscated his laptop, those same sources said.

    Al-Farhan’s whereabouts are unknown and it is unclear why he has been detained. Attempts by CPJ to obtain comment from the Saudi Embassy in Washington were unsuccessful.

    “It is deplorable that al-Farhan has been held secretly without charge for more than two weeks. We call on Saudi authorities to release him at once,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Detaining writers and holding them for weeks without charge is appalling.”

    In an e-mail sent to friends prior to his arrest, al-Farhan explained that he had received a phone call from the Saudi interior ministry instructing him to prepare himself “to be picked up in the coming two weeks” for an investigation by a high-ranking official.

    “The issue that caused all of this is because I wrote about the political prisoners here in Saudi Arabia and they think I’m running an online campaign promoting their issue,” al-Farhan wrote in the e-mail, which is currently posted on his blog. He wrote that the agent promised to detain him for only a short period if he agreed to sign a letter of apology. “I am not sure if I am ready to do that. Apology for what?” he asked in the e-mail, adding that he does not want “to be forgotten in jail.”

    Al-Farhan is one of the few Saudi bloggers who does not use a penname while commenting on political and social life in the country. In one of his last posts before his detention, al-Farhan sharply criticized 10 influential business, religious, and media figures close to the Saudi royal family. His public support of a group of 10 Saudi academics arrested earlier this year allegedly for “financing terrorism” has apparently angered Saudi authorities, he reported on his blog.

    “It’s really sad to see a blogger arrested and silenced for exercising his freedom of speech to condemn terrorism and promote political reform in his country,”Sami Ben Gharbia, a blogger close to al-Farhan and director of Global Voices told CPJ.

    The media in Saudi Arabia is heavily restricted by the government. Since September 11, 2001, the government has somewhat loosened the shackles on the domestic press. Local journalists have seized the initiative to produce more daring reports on crime, drug trafficking, unemployment, and religious extremism, but journalists remain heavily circumscribed in what they can write and are subject to swift reprisal from the authorities. S

    The government frequently reins in criticism by banning newspapers, blacklisting writers, and pressuring journalists behind the scenes. Last year online writer Rabah al-Quwai’ was held for 13 days in retaliation for his writings about religious extremism. For information on press freedom in Saudi Arabia read CPJ’s 2006 special report, Princes, Clerics, and Censors.

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