Saudi Arabia: Tweets for Jailed Saudi Activist Draw Global Attention

Saudi Twitter users have joined forces to highlight the plight of a political prisoner Shaikh Yusuf Al-Ahmad on the micro-blogging site. Their effort has made the Islamic scholar's name become a worldwide trend, raising awareness about his imprisonment without charges and access to a fair trial.

Essam Al Zamil quips [Ar]:

الله أكبررر ‎:)‏ اسم الشيخ يوسف الأحمد اسمه يصل للترند (العالمي) “Al-Ahmad” ‎‬#justice4YA‪‏

: God is great! Shaikh Yousif Al-Ahmad's name is trending worldwide

Foreign Policy editor Blake Hounshell shares a similar observation, which is acknowledged by Saudi blogger Ahmed Al Omran:

@ahmed: They did it RT : Watershed moment? Saudi tweeters get al-Ahmad, a detainee, to trend.

Al-Ahmad trending worldwide on Twitter

Al-Ahmad trending worldwide on Twitter

According to Human Rights Watch, Al-Ahmad was arrested for his comments on a video he posted on YouTube, on July 7, 2011, criticising the long-term detention of security suspects without charge or trial.

Ironically, Saudi authorities have not announced any charges against Al-Ahmad, who was jailed eight months ago and who had taught at Imam Muhammad bin Sa'ud University in Riyadh.

Sheikh Youssef al-AhmadTonight's Twitter campaign to raise awareness about his imprisonment has resulted in an out pour of reactions both under his name Al-Ahmad and the hash tag #justice4YA.

The campaign is being spearheaded by @SaudiDetainees, following the success of their first Twitter campaign to draw attention to another political prisoner – 34-yrear-old Mohammed Albajady, who has been behind bars for almost a year, also without charges or access to a fair trial.

Al Zamil writes:

@essamz: He said NO in the face of Injustice. We say YES for his freedom #justice4YA

Khaled Al Naser adds [ar]:

عندما نطلب العدالة ليوسف الأحمد نطلبها لكل معتقل تعسفياً، نطلبها لكل إسلامي أو ليبرالي، لكل سني أو شيعي، العدالة والحرية للجميع
@Mashi9a7: When we call for justice for Yusuf Al-Ahmad, we demand it for everyone being held arbitrarily. We demand it for every Islamist and liberal and every Sunni and Shia. Justice and freedom is for all.

And renowed Saudi blogger Fuad Al Farhan, who was himself arrested for writing on his blog, lends his voice to the campaign. He writes:

الحرية للشيخ يوسف الأحمد.. آن لملف الاعتقال والسجون أن يغلق للأبد ونضعه كشعب وحكومة خلف ظهورنا ونمضي..

: Freedom for Shaikh Yusuf Al-Ahmad.. It is time for this chapter of arrests and imprisonment to be closed for good and for us as a nation and government to put it behind our backs and move on

Al-Ahmad also maintains a Twitter account here – @yusufalahmed. The account is now managed by a supporter, who tweets updates on Al-Ahmad, his imprisonment conditions and how his elderly mother, who is sick with cancer, is faring.

Reporters without Borders lists Saudi Arabia as an Enemy of the Internet in its 2012 list of countries that censor the Internet and stifle free speech. It is only a matter of time before we find out how long the outspokenness of Saudi netizens online will continue for.

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