Inside the Middle East - Blog
February 26, 2008
Saudi blogger still in detention

When President Bush came to Saudi Arabia a month ago it raised hopes that jailed Saudi blogger Fuad Al-Farhan would be released.

By then the 30-year-old businessman had been locked up without charge for more than 30 days. Only his father had been able to visit him. He said Al-Farhan had lost weight.

Courtesy alfarhan.org

I was here at that time and interviewed blogger Ahmed Al-Omran who was spearheading a campaign to get Al-Farhan freed. He told me Farhan was doing no more than exercising his right to free speech.

Government officials told me they hoped he would be freed soon, something that would be speeded if he cooperated with authorities they said.

Now, two months after Al-Fahan’s arrest, I am back in Saudi Arabia and I’m learning very little appears to have changed. Al-Farhan is still in detention.

I am surprised because when I left a month ago the balance of feedback I had from official and non-official sources was that this probably wouldn’t last much longer, he’d be freed fairly soon.

For sure no one said it would happen, but they let me feel it might, and soon, once the outcry, particularly in the western media had died down.

Now it appears perhaps it really was just that, spin to kill off the outcry.

Ahmed Al-Omran told me the campaign to release Al-Farhan is still active, they are frustrated he said because despite repeated calls to the Ministry of interior they say they stil don’t know why Al-Farhan is being held.

What the campaign wants, Al-Omran says, "is a clear statement of why Al-Farhan is being held." He also says the government is obliged to answer Human Rights groups who have been asking the same question.

What concerns Al-Farhan’s supporters the most right now is that as far they know he hasn’t been allowed to see a lawyer.

The only vaguely positive note they can report is that Al-Farhan’s mother in law was able to call him by phone a few days ago. They are not clear what was said during that 10 minute exchange. His health remains a major concern for his wife and two children.

By law the government can hold Farhan for 6 months without charge. His friends haven’t given up hope he’ll be free long before then.

-- From Nic Robertson, CNN Senior International Correspondent

I'm so glad we are spending thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars to support democracy in the Middle East.
Actually, the government, here in Saudi Arabia, doesn't want to release him before signing an apology letter where he should not blog again in the future.


P.S: He called his natural mother not mother-in-law.
After reading your blog...Im still confused on the reason, or is there a reason? Knowing the laws in Saudi Arabia Im certain that he probably spoke out against the powers that be and raved about america....or perhaps its just a publicity stunt, either way its sad that expressing yourself in 2008 can get you jail-time..America may have its own issues but in some respects Im sure glad my feet are firmly planted here.

Kraig Rasool
Ft Washington Md
Wow billions of dollars later and Iraq still sucks.
Thats foul. I'd be in jail then for sayin that maybe we can urge the shite & sunni to join the Kurds and declare war against Turkey, that would unify the government more than we can, just a though on Iraq
Fuad and his alike under that specified subjects would be a gradually bridge building of real positive change in the Kingdom.. Way to go Fuad..

Peace, Hiyam
I were Fouad when I got out of jail I would be smoking mad. If I started out being a peaceful non-violent civil disobedient before being locked up, well let me say those peaceful thoughts might be transformed afterwards.

America can I give you a standing ovation for a job well done…I can really see victory in the horizon for our way of life, free speech and democracy.

George Bush get on your phone now..and make a call with a little suggestion...PLEASE
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