Minggu, 06 Januari 2008

NGO demands details of Saudi blogger's arrest (AFP)

RIYADH (AFP) - A Saudi human rights group on Saturday demanded the interior ministry explain why an Internet blogger who called for political reforms has been imprisoned.

Saudi Human Rights Association vice president Meflah al-Qahtani said his organisation had sent an official message to the interior ministry "asking for clarification of why Fouad al-Farhan was arrested and for assurances regarding his human rights."

He said the group also wanted assurances he would be allowed to see a lawyer. His family and friends say they do not know where he is being held.

"The release of a person held because of their political opinions, like Farhan, is a question of principle, " Qahtani added.

"But if that is not possible, we must at least make sure they are provided with their legal rights," he said.

The demand comes ahead of a visit by US President George W. Bush to US ally Saudi Arabia on January 14 and 15, part of a tour of the Middle East.

The United States said on Thursday it raised the arrest with the authorities in the ultra-conservative kingdom underlining Washingtons committment to freedom of expression.

Farhan was arrested in the Red Sea city of Jeddah on December 10, though it was reported only on Tuesday by the English-language daily Arab News, the only Saudi newspaper to have spoken about his detention.

He was being held for "interrogation for violating non-security regulations," interior ministry spokesman General Mansur al-Turki told the daily.

Saudi bloggers launched a campaign calling for Farhans release backed by appeals from international and Saudi NGOs, including the Arabic Network for Human Rights, Reporters sans Frontiers (Reporters without Borders) and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

A smiling Farhan (which means joyful in Arabic) declared on his blog (www.alfarhan.org) that he is pursuing "freedom, dignity, justice, equality, shura (consultation) and other missing Islamic values."

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