UPDATE (Dec. 24, 2007): A free Fuad Farhan site has been set up. Click here to check it out. You can leave comments and read what other bloggers have written about Fuad's arrest. There is also a Facebook page for him.Also, it seems that he was arrested on Dec. 11, and not just last week as I reported below.
SEVERAL Gulf bloggers have now confirmed that Saudi blogger Fuad Al-Farhan was arrested last week before Eid in Jeddah.
I know Fuad personally and have met him several times and interviewed him for stories. The last time I saw him was when I had lunch with him, Faiza Ambah and the English writer Robert Lacey at Casper & Gambini in early December. He was in good spirits and did not have an inkling yet that he was in trouble.
Around a week later he called a mutual friend of ours and said that he was worried as a person in the Ministry of the Interior had called him to warn him that his name was on a list of people to be arrested and held for questioning. According to the government official, Fuad was to be held initially for three days, and if he was not cooperative then his stay with the secret police could be expanded to two weeks.
As the Bahraini blogger Mahmoud of Mahmoud's Den wrote today, this is not the first time that Fuad has run afoul of Saudi authorities. In November 2006 he was questioned by two plainclothes officials about his blog and warned that if he did not stop criticizing government officials he would face negative consequences. Scared that his IT business could be affected by what he wrote on his blog, Fuad stopped blogging for several months.
The latest arrest comes after he visited one of nine Saudi reformists who were arrested on Feb. 10, 2007, and are still being held at a secret police detention facility in north Jeddah after refusing to sign undertakings that they would cease their calls for political reform. Fuad wrote about his visit on his blog.
I just hope that Fuad will be released soon and allowed to blog again. The wave of greater accountability, more transparency and allowing the citizenry of Saudi Arabia a higher voice in how our country is run is the ongoing legacy of King Abdullah's reformist agenda. I hope that this will be allowed to continue. Arresting reformists and bloggers does not help the cause of reform in the Kingdom, and just serves to bring us back to those dreaded old days when everyone was too afraid to say in public what they really felt. I and many other Saudis like me had thought that those days were long gone. I hope we're right.