Saudi detains blogger, rights group urges release
RIYADH (Reuters) - The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists has urged Saudi Arabia to release a blogger who has been detained in the conservative Muslim kingdom for almost a month for his writings.
Interior Ministry Spokesman Mansour al-Turki confirmed that Fouad al-Farhan was being detained but declined to say under what charges. The blogger was not being held over any security-related issues, he added.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said Farhan was arrested for writing articles about political prisoners in Saudi Arabia on his Web site (www.alfarhan.org).
"Arbitrarily detaining a writer and holding him for weeks without saying why violates the most basic norms for free expression and serves as a chilling reminder to those seeking to express their opinions," CPJ said in the letter.
"It also runs counter to official Saudi statements in support of reform and a more open press."
Farhan said Saudi authorities think he was running "an online campaign promoting the political prisoners issue", according to an email sent to friends, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.
Saudi Arabia is often the target of complaints by rights groups. It recently faced international criticism over an Islamic court ruling that sentenced a gang-rape victim to flogging. The Saudi king later pardoned the 19-year old woman.
(Reporting by Souhail Karam; editing by Sami Aboudi)