THE WASHINGTON POST and the Saudi newspaper Arab News both ran stories today about the jailed Saudi blogger Fuad Al-Farhan, who has been jailed ever since he was arrested in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Dec. 10.
Both stories quote Fuad's wife, who says she and other family members have had no contact since he was arrested. The Ministry of Interior spokesman would only say that he was not arrested on suspicion of supporting terrorism.
That is unlike the nine reformists who were arrested in February 2007 after they sent a petition to King Abdullah asking for a crackdown on corruption and a greater political voice for the average Saudi. They too are being held in a secret detention center in Jeddah, and none of them have been officially charged with any crime or put on trial.
One of the nine detained is Saud al-Mokhtar Hashemi, a medical doctor who used to host a weekly political discussion group in his home before he was arrested. I interviewed his sister last year in Jeddah and she vehemently denied some reports that her brother had allegedly supported insurgents in Iraq. These accusations surfaced after he raised donations at his weekly discussion groups for refugees in Iraq and Palestinians.
Ironically, it is one of these imprisoned reformists that Fuad visited in detention a few weeks ago, and then wrote about on his blog, that may have triggered his own arrest. Fuad told several people who know him only days before his arrest that a Minsitry of Interior official had warned him that he would be arrested for writing about those reformists and supporting them.
It is just so sad that in 2008 the Saudi government is still seemingly more afraid of intellectual debate with democratic reformists, than it is of Islamist extremists who are ready to blow up as many people as it takes for them to achieve their political ends.