Free Saudi blogger Fouad Al-Farhan!

I just read in the Straits Times today that Saudi Arabia’s most prominent blogger, Fouad Al-Farhan, was arrested on Dec 23 by the Saudi authorities for allegedly violating “non-security laws”. You can read the report in the New York Times.

In a letter sent to his friends just before he was picked up by the authorities, Fouad wrote:

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 jail 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.”

I know this is Saudi Arabia, not exactly a bastion of democracy in the Middle East. The Kingdom is an absolute monarchy, and does not allow political parties, civil rights groups or public gatherings. Nevertheless, this news is still upsetting and repulsive to me.

Unlike most other Saudi bloggers, Fouad uses his real name and features his picture on his blog. In a post in December, he listed his 10 least favourite Saudi personalities, including a businessman prince, a prominent cleric, a minister, a mayor and the head of the judiciary.

One of Fouad’s fellow Saudi bloggers, Ahmad al-Omran, was quoted as saying, “It’s really sad that a blogger who is writing about important issues out in the open would get arrested, while there are extremists who call for violence and hate, and the government is not doing much.”

I lend my tiny voice to a global call for the immediate release of Fouad Al-Farhan and urge fellow Singaporean bloggers to do likewise.