Saudi Authorities Detain Popular Blogger

Saudi authorities have detained a popular blogger for violating the kingdom's laws, a senior Interior Ministry official said Tuesday. It was the first known arrest of a Saudi online critic.

The blogger, Fouad al-Farhan, was being questioned by security authorities, Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Monsour al-Turki said. He added the blogger might be released on Wednesday but did not elaborate.

The Saudi English daily, Arab News, said al-Farhan had "violated non-security regulations." The paper said the 32-year-old Jeddah resident was arrested at his office Dec. 10 and taken to his home where police conducted a search. There were no other details.

Click here to view his blog.

Al-Farhan's family has contacted the governmental Human Rights Commission, asking for help in the case, the paper said.

Al-Farhan is one of the few bloggers who uses his real name. His blog headline reads: "Searching for freedom, dignity, justice, equality, shoura and all the rest of lost Islamic values." Shoura is Arabic for public consultation.

Following the arrest, al-Farhan's friends who are now running his Web site, posted a letter allegedly from the blogger claiming he was told by an official there was an Interior Ministry order "to investigate me and they will pick me up anytime in the next two weeks."

In it, he also said he believed Saudi authorities were after him because he "wrote about political prisoners in Saudi Arabia."

Al-Farhan added that officials asked him to sign an apology but that he wasn't ready to do that.

"An apology for what? Apologizing because I said the government is liar when it accused those people of supporting terrorism," he said.

Another Saudi blogger, Ahmad Al-Omran, told Arab News that al-Farhan's arrest could have been an attempt to intimidate other bloggers.