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Sun 24 Feb 2008 02:10 PM

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Jailed blogger in solitary confinement, family says

Saudi authorities allow Fouad Al Farhan brief telephone call with his mother.

Jailed blogger in solitary confinement, family says
SOLITARY CONFINEMENT: Al Farhans mother has been allowed a brief telephone call with her son (C).

Jailed Saudi blogger Fouad Al Farhan is being kept in solitary confinement and subjected to daily questioning, members of his family said on Saturday.

Al Farhan's mother said Saudi authorities allowed her son to briefly telephone his family from Jeddah’s Dahban Prison on February 12, his first contact since his father-in-law was allowed a short visit on January 5, reported Saudi daily Arab News.

Despite his on-going imprisonment, Al Farhan told his mother he was "all right, and that he was not being harassed", quoted the newspaper.

His family’s requests for further visits have been denied, and it is unclear whether he has received access to legal assistance, Arab News said.

Al Farhan, a popular Saudi blogger, was arrested in Jeddah on December 10, but has not been informed of the charges against him. His detention is believed to be the first arrest of an online critic in the kingdom.

The authorities are believed to be holding Al Farhan for his online criticism of government policies, including detentions without charge and trial of prisoners of conscience.

These criticisms include the government’s ongoing detention of nine men arrested in February last year after calling for government reform.

Mansour Al Turki, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said earlier this month that there was no update on the Al-Farhan case other than his previous statement that he was being held for interrogation for violating non-security regulations.

Al-Farhan’s blog - Searching for freedom, dignity, justice, equality, shoura and all the rest of lost Islamic values - has posted a letter, allegedly from Al-Farhan, which states he believes he was arrested because he “wrote about political prisoners in Saudi Arabia”.

His arrest and imprisonment has sparked the launch of several campaigns and appeals for his release by international and Saudi NGOs, including the Arabic Network for Human Rights, Reporters without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

T Crowe Semler 12 years ago

Fouad Al Farhan is in a "catch 22". I suspect he was educated abroad. Once a young person experiences their "voice", to give and share opinions of "social" and "political" nature the empowerment of a "social conscious individual" is then awakened. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabian sends thousands of students both undergraduates and graduates to the USA and GB for their education. I have had the privilege to teach and be friend many of these fine young people. The primary message in my sociology class is "accountability". First, we must demand accountability from ourselves, our actions and inactions. Then we may request accountability from institutions, corporations, and governments. I teach my students to give “voice” to their concerns dealing with social and political issues. Critical thinking skills are a fundamental part of higher education. Fouad’s Blog is obviously addressing social and political concerns. His arrest begs one to ask the question “Why are this young man’s thoughts and words threatening to the Saudi Government?” “Searching for freedom, dignity, justice, equality, shoura and all the rest of lost Islamic values” Can one young person bring a new “Ishtihad” to the “Wahabism” which has dominated the Islamic system of Saudi Arabia? I hope the Saudi Ministry of Interior realizes they have confirmed Al Farhan’s concerns “about political prisoners in Saudi Arabia” since he is now apart of this “unspeakable” group. We can hope King Abdullah, with his great wisdom, will release Fouad Al Farhan…Insha’Allah. I am your brother, T Crowe O’Rourke Semler