8 January 2008


The "dean" of bloggers in Saudi Arabia has been detained for nearly a month without charge - an unusually long time for a blogger to be held, report the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (HRInfo), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Ahmad Fouad al-Farhan ( http://www.alfarhan.org) was arrested on 10 December by police in Jeddah, and his computer was confiscated, HRInfo says. RSF reports that he is being held in a prison in Jeddah, and has been allowed only one visit from a relative since his arrest. He has not been given access to a lawyer and no charges have been brought against him.

Al-Farhan said on his blog a few days before his arrest that he was expecting a summons from the interior ministry because he wrote about political prisoners in Saudi Arabia and the ministry believed that he was running a campaign against it.

A "Day of Silence for Fouad" was held on the blogosphere on 6 January. Bloggers did not post any articles, instead putting up a banner on their sites calling for his release.

The Saudi government's official Internet blacklist affects more than 400,000 websites, ranging from the sites of political organisations to those of unrecognised Islamist movements and porn sites, says RSF. Recently, the authorities have blocked the news website Elaph and the leading blog publishing service, http://www.blogger.com.RSF says al-Farhan is the first blogger to be targeted directly in the country.

According to HRInfo, bloggers have played a crucial role in supporting the peaceful reformation in Saudi Arabia. Al-Farhan often wrote about political reforms and combating terrorism on his blog.

Visit these links:
- HRInfo: http://www.hrinfo.net/en/reports/2007/pr1224.shtml- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=24873- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/2bjsdk- Free Fouad: http://en.freefouad.com/(8 January 2008)

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