No respite in sight for detained Saudi blogger

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Dubai, Jan 6 (UNI) A 32-year-old Saudi blogger who has been detained by the police without citing any reason for his detention may have to wait long for his release, reports said.

Authorities in Jeddah yesterday allowed his family member to meet the blogger Fouad Al-Farhan in prison, Arab News said.

His father-in-law met him for one hour inside Jeddah's Dahban Prison where the Saudi blogger has been held for the past 27 days.

''He hasn't been told of the charges (against him). He said he's interrogated for 15 minutes every day,'' one of his blogger friends said.

The owner of a small IT business who runs a web journal apparently paid a price for discussing Saudi social and political issues.

Meanwhile human rights activists in Saudi Arabia said he should be given access to a lawyer.

While authorities have not outlined the reason for his detention, Al-Farhan said prior to his arrest that he drew the attention of the Interior Ministry for comments he made in defense of a group of academics that were arrested last year.

Maj Gen Mansour Al-Turki, Interior Ministry spokesperson, denied a report that ran on CNN recently saying Al-Farhan would soon be released. Law experts said under the law he could be detained upto six months.

Al-Farhan stated on his blog that the purpose of his commentary is to discuss what is being addressed on the ''Saudi Street'' and behind closed doors because the media ''rarely tells the truth.'' In addition to calling for more public participation in governance, as well as reforms to government ministries, Al-Farhan condemned terrorism and extremism.

The blogging community is planning a ''Day of Blog Silence,'' asking the international blog community to post a banner graphic with Al-Farhan's picture and to refrain from making posts today.

''It's a world wide call for all bloggers not only in Saudi,'' said one Saudi blogger who runs the online campaign defending her colleague.

UNI XC PD RS1630

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