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Saudi Arabia: Free Fouad Update

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Saudi Arabia, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Blogger Profiles

The leading [1] Saudi blogger, Fouad Alfarhan [2], who has been arrested [3] in Jeddah on December 10, 2007 for exercising his freedom of speech on his popular blog alfarhan.org [4] has sent a letter [5] 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 [6]. 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 [7] to call attention to Fouad. As so far, a support group created on Facebook [8] for Fouad has gathered 295 members.

In a statement issued on December 24, 2007, The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information [9] 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.