Saudi Arabia: Amnesty appeal for detained blogger at risk of torture

Amnesty International today issued an urgent appeal for Internet blogger Fouad Ahmad al-Farhan , who is reportedly being held in incommunicado detention at Dhaban Prison in the Saudi city of Jeddah. He has been held for more than one month and is at risk of torture.

Fouad Ahmad al-Farhan is believed to be held for his peaceful criticism of government policies, including detentions without charge or trial of prisoners of conscience - such as nine men who have been held since 3 February 2007. Amnesty International believes they may be detained solely for their peaceful activities in defence of human rights.

Amnesty is asking its members to send urgent appeals to the Saudi authorities,
expressing concern that Fouad Ahmad Al-Farhan is being held incommunicado and seeking assurances that he will be protected from torture or ill-treatment. They are calling for his immediate and unconditional release if he is being held solely for the peaceful expression of his beliefs. Amnesty is also urging that Fouad Ahmad Al-Farhan be given regular access to his family, lawyers and any medical attention he needs.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Blogs are some of the few places in Saudi Arabia where people can truly speak out about human rights - newspaper and TV journalists are often arrested or censored if they write about reform.

“This arrest is a massive step backwards for Saudi media and a dark day for freedom of expression in the country.

“If his only ‘crime’ is expressing his beliefs in a blog, the authorities should release Fouad Ahmad al-Farhan immediately. If they really believe that he has done something else wrong they should give him a fair trial.”

Fouad Ahmad al-Farhan is aged 32 and owns a small IT company called 'Smart Info'. He was arrested by security agents at his office on 10 December 2007. He was later taken to his home, which was subsequently searched. The Ministry of Interior acknowledged his detention on 31 December, but the exact reason for his arrest was not specified. He is married with two Children's rights and his family have reportedly been told that they will not be able to visit him until 30 days from the date of his detention.

Prior to his arrest Fouad Ahmad al-Farhan was reportedly warned by an official from the Interior Ministry that he was at risk of being interrogated. He believed that this would be in connection with his writings on political prisoners in his web journal.

The Saudi Arabian authorities regularly hold detainees incommunicado, when they are frequently tortured and otherwise ill-treated. Critics of the state are routinely detained indefinitely without charge or trial. Defendants are often denied the right to formal representation by a lawyer and in many cases they and their families are not informed of the progress of legal proceedings against them. Due to the high level of secrecy of the Saudi Arabian justice system, trials are invariably held behind closed doors. In the rare instances when individuals are charged and brought to trial, the proceedings invariably fail to meet the most elementary standards of fairness.

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