The mainstream press (here, here) reports that the Saudi Arabian authorities have detained Fouad Ahmad Al-Farhan, a popular Saudi blogger whose blog has been a platform for criticism of government corruption and advocacy for political reform. Al-Farhan was arrested on December 10, but apparently it took a while for the story to break -- it was picked up last week by bloggers in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Bahrain. A statement from the Saudi Ministry of the Interior posted on Al-Farhan's blog states that Al-Farhan was detained "to investigate (with him) the violation of regulations not related to state security." Since his arrest, friends have continued posting entries on the blog and put up "Free Fouad" banners in Arabic and English. Also posted on the site is a letter that Al-Farhan put up days before his arrest (typos in the original):
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.
One hopes that the international media attention will help Al-Farhan's cause.
In related news, on December 26 Egyptian authorities detained blogger Musa'ad Suleiman Hassan, aka Musa'ad Abu Fagr. Musa'ad's blog,"Widna Ne'eesh" (We Want to Live) deals with political and social issues in the Sinai Peninsula, which has seen several terrorist attacks (and the associated government crackdowns) in recent years. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information issued a statement calling for Musa'ad's release. (Thanks to 3arabawy for the tip.)