Name: Fouad Al-Farhan / Ahmad Fouad al-Farhan
Nationality: Saudi Arabia
Arrested: 10 Dec 07 – 26 Apr 08
Blog: فؤاد أحمد الفرحان (Arabic)
Wikipedia: Fouad al-Farhan
Campaign: Free Fouad
Blogger for Freedom: Fouad Al-Farhan
Committee to Protect Bloggers: Fouad Al-Farhan
Global Voices Advocacy: Free Fouad Update
On December 10, 2007 the leading Saudi blogger Fouad Al-Farhan was arrested at his office in Jeddah. Al-Farhan had been warned: Not just, that Saudi government silenced his blog from February to July 2007 ((Mahmood’s Den | Saudi Blogger Fouad Al-Farhan arrested)) – a few days before his detention he announced it in a letter to his friends ((Saudi Jeans | Fouad’s letter)):
“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.”
Before, he had been “asked” to sign an apology – without being told for what. Soon after this, the “Godfather” of the Saudi blogosphere has been arrested at his office and was brought to an unidentified location by security forces. It is the first time a Saudi blogger is taken into custody for his writing.
On January 1, three weeks after the detention on December 10, a statement was given by the ministry of the interior. It says, Al-Farhan was being held for “interrogation for violating non-security regulations”. ((Arab News | Blogger does not face security charges)).
The detailed backgrounds of the detention are still in the dark. Fouad Al-Farhan himself suggested in his letter – before being arrested – his postings on a group of political prisoners had led to accusation ((Saudi Jeans | Fouad’s letter)):
“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.”
These political prisoners are a group of businessmen from Jeddah, who are accused to have supported terrorism, even though their lawyer claims, their plan to found a human rights group had really caused their detention ((Washington Post | Dissident Saudi blogger is arrested)).
Another prominent Saudi blogger, Ahmad Al-Omran, suggested on his blog Saudi Jeans, that the real backgrounds for Al-Farhan being arrested can be found in the conflict between King Abdullah and parts of the government ((Saudi Jeans | You got the wrong guy)):
“I have no doubt that King Abdullah is pushing for a reformist agenda. However, it is very unfortunate that some elements in the government are not happy with this agenda because it could curb their powers and change their status. That’s why these elements are so threatened by freedom of expression and therefore try to stifle this freedom even if that means violating basic human rights, national law and international accords.”
A high international media interest followed the detention of Fouad Al-Farhan – detailed coverage could be found from the BBC, CNN, New York Times or Washington Post ((Free Fouad | Fouad arrest all over the mainstream media)), but the Saudi media kept being silent ((Mideast Youth | Who’s Fouad again?)).
To fulfill Fouad Al-Farhans wish not to be forgotten in jail, his friends started the blog “Free Fouad” ((Free Fouad)). In English and Arabic, it covers the development of the case. Together with other platforms, they started a petition to support the release of Al-Farhan ((Petition: Free Fouad Al-Farhan)). Also, they called for a blog silence on January 6, with bloggers all over the world participating.
On April 3, 2007, Fouad’s blog as well as the blog of the Free Fouad group got blocked in Saudi Arabia. ((Global Voices Online » Fouad Al-Farhan’s blog and Free Fouad blocked))
Fouad Al-Farhan was finally released on April 26, 2008, after 137 days in custody. He was reported to be with his family and to sound relatively well. Still the backgrounds of his arrest have not been revealed. ((Saudi Jeans » Fouad Released))