ARAB NEWS reported yesterday that jailed Saudi blogger Fuad Al-Farhan was allowed a visit by his father-in-law on Jan. 5 at Jeddah's Dahban Prison, his first contact with his family since he was arrested on Dec. 10.
Worryingly, the story also quotes the Ministry of Interior spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki denying having said that Fuad could be released soon. As Ebtihal Mubarak's story points out, under Saudi law the authorities can hold a suspect for up to six months without charging them. But as Hussein Al-Sharif of the National Society for Human Rights pointed out: "In these six months the detainee must be aware of the charges brought against him, allow him his right to an attorney, not be abused, and, most important, the right of a fair and just trial.
One of Farhan's friends said "his spirits were high."
Interestingly enough, a Republican candidate in this year's elections for the US Senate, Andy Martin of Chicago, Illinois, has called for isolating Saudi Arabia if they don't release Fuad and improve their humans rights record.
"It is time for the era of human rights to dawn in Saudi Arabia. A first step would be to release imprisoned blogger Fouad al-Farhan. Thereafter the government should guarantee full free speech rights to Saudi citizens, as well as due process of law. Access to the Internet, free speech and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention are basic human rights," said Martin in a statement released on Jan. 1.
US President George W. Bush is visiting the Gulf next week and will meet in Riyadh with King Abdullah. It will be interesting to see if Fuad will be released before the visit.