Skip to main content

Freed Saudi blogger: Teens mustn't become terrorists

  • Story Highlights
  • Fouad al-Farhan says he was inspired by 15-, 16-year-olds working in prisons
  • Saudi government detained al-Farhan in December for his blog
  • Al-Farhan was held because he supported reform advocates, a blog says
  • U.S. State Department had appealed to Saudi Arabia for al-Farhan's release
  • Next Article in World »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

(CNN) -- Blogger Fouad al-Farhan said Sunday, the day after his release from a Saudi jail, that his four months in detention has given him a new focus.

Web sites like this one pushed for Fouad al-Farhan's release.

"My main interest right now is to help ... our youth not to be involved in terrorism activities that will lead them to prisons," al-Farhan said.

Al-Farhan, 32, was detained in December, ostensibly because he supported several reform advocates accused by the Saudi government of supporting terrorism.

The American Islamic Congress, which pushed for his release, said al-Farhan was simply expressing opinions and had advocated against terrorism.

Al-Farhan said he "was treated like any other prisoner" and would not comment further about his case, saying he plans to issue a statement "soon" on his Web log, or "blog."

A Web site set up to push for al-Farhan's release announced he was free on Saturday: "Fouad is free. He is back home in Jeddah after 137 days in custody."

The Saudi government has not officially commented on his release.

Al-Farhan said he is happy to be back with his wife and two children at his home in Jeddah.

Al-Farhan said he met several teenage boys in jail whose situations inspired him to try to prevent other Saudi youths from ending up there.

"I saw some cases of some 15- and 16-year-olds working in prisons. I was touched by their situation -- by what they were planning to do," the blogger said.

"Let's focus on those youth and make sure they are not involved in terrorism activities," he said.

In January, a spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry said al-Farhan was arrested December 10 "because he violated the regulations of the kingdom."

But in an e-mail posted on al-Farhan's Web site after his arrest, he told friends he faced arrest for supporting 10 reform advocates the Saudi government had accused of supporting terrorism.

In the e-mail, al-Farhan said a senior Interior Ministry official promised him he would remain in custody for three days at most if he agreed to sign a letter of apology.

"I'm not sure if I'm ready to do that," he wrote. "An apology for what? Apologizing because I said the government is [a] liar when they accused those guys to be supporting terrorism?"

Al-Farhan, who blogs at, is one of the few Saudi Web commentators to use his own name, according to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Ahmed al-Omran, a fellow Saudi blogger said he and others who supported al-Farhan were surprised by al-Farhan's release -- especially after the Saudi government moved to shut down his Web site earlier this month. Video Watch al-Omran describe his conversation with al-Farhan »

"It was a surprise, but it was a pleasant surprise," said al-Omran, who operates

The Bush administration in January expressed its concerns to the Saudi government regarding al-Farhan's detention at "a relatively senior level," said U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

"The U.S. stands for freedom of expression," McCormack said at the time. "Wherever people are seeking to express themselves, via the Internet or via other areas, whether in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in the world, we stand with that freedom of expression, and that was our message to the Saudi government."

The American Islamic Congress, which describes itself as "a civil rights organization promoting tolerance and the exchange of ideas among Muslims and between other peoples," launched an online letter-writing campaign aimed at freeing al-Farhan, calling him "the godfather of Saudi blogging."

"All he did was express his opinions in a very obvious way, and he didn't threaten anyone," al-Omran said. "He was advocating against violence and terrorism."

Al-Omran said that al-Farhan had stopped blogging for a few months in late 2006, after the Interior Ministry ordered him to take down a blog he was operating, but he later began again at another online site.


He called al-Farhan's release a turning point for the blogging community in Saudi Arabia.

"It showed the community of bloggers in Saudi Arabia can come together and support this cause -- support his freedom of speech -- even those who didn't agree with some of the things he wrote," he said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom contributed to this report.

All About Saudi ArabiaU.S. Department of State

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print