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Blogger arrested, his whereabouts unknown; news website and blog publishing service blocked by authorities

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF condemns the detention of blogger Ahmad Fouad Al-Farhan ( http://www.alfarhan.org ) since 10 December 2007. His family does not know where he is being held or what he is charged with. He said on his blog a few days before his arrest that he was expecting a summons from the interior ministry.

"The reforms and the opening announced by King Abdallah Ibn Al-Saud have yet to have any impact on the lives of Saudis, including those who openly express their disagreement with government policies," RSF said. "After blocking the news website Elaph and the leading blog publishing service http://www.blogger.com, the authorities have now directly targeted a blogger for the first time. We call on the police to immediately reveal where and why Al-Farhan is being held."

Aged 32 and a resident of Jeddah, Al-Farhan was arrested at his workplace by police who first took him home to collect his laptop computer and then took him to an unknown location, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information said. His family still does not know where he is.

A note that he wrote a few days before his arrest has been posted on his website by a support committee. "I was told that there is an official order from a high-ranking official in the ministry of the interior to investigate me," he wrote. "They will pick me up any time in the next two weeks (. . .) This is because I wrote about the political prisoners here in Saudi Arabia and they think I'm running an online campaign promoting their issue. All I did is write some pieces, put up banners and ask other bloggers to do the same."

The Saudi government's official Internet blacklist affects more than 400,000 websites, ranging from the sites of political organisations to those of unrecognised Islamist movements and porn sites.

Saudi Arabia is on the RSF list of "13 Internet enemies" and was ranked 148th out of 169 countries in the RSF world press freedom index that was published in October.

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