JIDDAH, Dec. 31 — Saudi Arabia’s most popular blogger, Fouad al-Farhan, has been detained for questioning, an Interior Ministry spokesman confirmed Monday. It was the first known arrest of an online critic in the kingdom.
Farhan, 32, who used his blog to criticize corruption and call for political reform, was detained “for violating rules not related to state security,” according to the spokesman, Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, responding to repeated requests for comment with a brief cellphone text message.Farhan’s Dec. 10 arrest was reported last week on the Internet and has been condemned by bloggers in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Bahrain.
The Saudi news media have not yet reported the arrest, but more than 200 bloggers in the kingdom have criticized Farhan’s detention, and a group of supporters have set up a Free Fouad Web site.Farhan, who was educated in the United States and owns a computer programming company, was arrested at his office in Jiddah and then brought home, where his laptop was confiscated, said his wife, who spoke on condition that her name not be published to protect her privacy. “They arrested him because of his blog. I haven’t seen him since. We don’t know where he is,” she said.
Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy that restricts press and speech freedoms, does not allow political parties, civil rights groups or public gatherings. But since King Abdullah took the throne in 2005, official tolerance of criticism and debate has grown.
Apparently the ‘tolerant monarchy’ has limits.
……At the time of their arrest, the government accused the Jiddah-based group, made up of a former judge, academics and businessmen, of supporting terrorism. The men’s attorney, Bassim Alim, had said they were arrested for their political activism and their plans to form a civil rights group.
Pot, meet kettle. The Saudi government sponsors terrorism against the West through indoctrination, training, and funding, but dissention against their oppressive regime will get you charged with terrorism.