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Saudi blogger free after 137 days jail

April 27, 2008 8:16 by

saudi bloggerAfter 137 days in jail, much of it in solitary confinement, Fouad Al-Farhan, the now notorious Saudi blogger, has been released without charge. His wife confirmed to Arab News the 32-year-old Al-Farhan is back home from Jeddah’s Dahban Prison and, currently unavailable for comment, has gone out to “enjoy his freedom.”

“He was released around 5:30 in the morning,” said Al-Farhan’s wife. “He is all right, Alhamdulillah.”

A Saudi blogger close to Al-Farhan, who didn’t want to be named, said he spoke to the blogger on Saturday. “It was a very emotional conversation,” said the friend. “I just wanted to make sure he is all right. We did not speak in detail.”

Al-Farhan’s detention had caused outcry both within the Saudi blogging community and among Western media. His story was reported on CNN, BBC and MSNBC - though not on Saudi-owned Al Arabiya. Western print media and online communities heavily played the story.

Al-Farhan was detained on December 10th for “violating regulations”, after one of his blog entries was critical of influential Saudi religious, business and media figures. According to official statements, the charges against him had nothing to do with national security concerns. No charges were ever pressed or outlined. The Interior Ministry issued no statements about the release.

Al-Farhan has said in the past that he was detained for comments he had made in defense of a group of Saudi citizens who had been meeting to discuss public participation in governance and other reforms. Government officials visited him prior to his arrest asking him to tone down statements on his blog.

Al-Farhan had indicated that he would be arrested, but also stressed that he would continue to blog on issues he felt strongly about. Al-Farhan’s family was allowed only two visits during this period of imprisonment.

Earlier this month, Al-Farhan’s blog was blocked along with two other websites that had been set up to publicize Al-Farhan’s situation. Friends of the blogger had been maintaining the blog during his absence.

Al-Farhan, a father of two, owns a small IT business in Jeddah. “He is fine now and out of prison and that’s what counts now,” said Al-Farhan’s wife.

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