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Egyptian Internet activist detained without charges

(ANHRI/IFEX) - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemns the Egyptian security apparatus and their Saudi counterparts for co-operating in the detention of Egyptian Internet activist and programmer Yousif Al-Ashmawi for two months without trial or charge in Al Hayer Prison in Riyadh.

Twenty-seven-year-old Al-Ashmawi traveled to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in October 2007 to work as a programmer for the Yanabi Technical Foundation in Riyadh. This was a highly responsible position suited to his skills, and whilst there he did some work for the Saudi foreign ministry.

On 24 August 2008 he visited the offices of the department of traffic administration to complete the process for obtaining a driving license, at their request, and so far, he has not returned.

All his family knows is that a vehicle belonging to the Saudi security services took him to an unidentified location. Until now, he has not managed to contact them and his lawyers at ANHRI have not been able to communicate with him.

The Legal Aid Unit for the Freedom of Expression has filed official reports with the Egyptian prosecutor general, the embassy of Saudi Arabia in Egypt, the Egyptian embassy in Saudi Arabia and the Saudi foreign ministry. ANHRI has also informed two human rights associations in Saudi Arabia but none of these institutions have taken any interest in the case.

ANHRI and his family have verified that the Egyptian security apparatus was informed by Saudi security of the police abduction and took no measures to protect him and his rights. The have not followed up the case and have thus encouraged Saudi security to ignore the law.

ANHRI initially presumed that the incident was connected to the announcement of the arrest of five young men in Saudi Arabia last August, who had been participating in controversial debate forums on the Internet. However, after investigating Al-Ashmawi's page on the Facebook network, ANHRI has dropped this assumption.

ANHRI and Al-Ashmawi's family only learned informally that he is being held in the Al Hayer prison. It is believed he is being held because the Saudi foreign and interior ministries assume he may have had access to state secrets because of the work he did for the government during his time at Yanabi.

Gamal Eid, executive director of ANHRI, issued the following statement:

"We are filled with anger and bitterness, not only for the imprisonment of Yousif Al-Ashmawi without charge in Saudi Arabia, but also for the shameful attitude of the Egyptian embassy in Saudi Arabia and the Egyptian foreign ministry towards Al-Ashmawi and towards similar cases. They do not care and almost threw his father out when he approached them to demand their intervention to legalize the status of Al-Ashmawi in Saudi Arabia. This is a dishonorable attitude which only encourages the Saudi government with its black human rights records - to imprison an Egyptian citizen without bringing charges against him."

In the light of the blatant government conspiracy of the imprisonment of a young Egyptian man, ANHRI demands that the prosecutor general take notice of this case and investigate the report submitted to him by ANHRI on 17 September 2008.

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