Sunday, December 30, 2007

Blogger behind bars

The Saudi authorities are holding blogger Fouad Farhan in detention - but without giving any reason for his arrest

By Iman al-Qahtani
The Guardian

"......A few weeks before the end of the year, Saudi blogger Fouad Farhan was also held in a mysterious way. Information about the circumstances of his arrest has been very limited, despite my personal attempt to find out from security sources why he was arrested.....

But a statement by his wife to Global Voices Website has now removed much of the mystery:

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......

Farhan didn't hide his fear about this arrest. Days before he was held he sent a message to fellow bloggers. He 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 email, 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 email, adding that he does not want "to be forgotten in jail"......

Why don't the security authorities give us a valid justification? Such an arrest is a dangerous indicator about the low level of personal freedoms and freedom of expression this year. "

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