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Saudi journalist and blogger held without charge for past 16 months

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 10 September 2015.

Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of Alaa Brinji, 33, a Saudi journalist and blogger who has been held without trial or charge for more than a year for still unclear reasons and who is being denied any legal defence.

“Alaa Brinji is being held arbitrarily, in violation of international legal standards, and we therefore call for his immediate and unconditional release,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Middle East and Maghreb desk. “The Saudi authorities cannot silence all independent voices and critics by detaining them illegally and leaving them with no way of defending themselves. This is a grossly unfair and appalling procedure.”

A journalist with the local online media outlet Al Sharq, Brinji was arrested on 13 May 2014 on returning from Bahrain with his family. After interrogation, he was transferred to Marabith prison in the eastern city of Dammam and has been there ever since, without any formal charge and without any date being set for a trial.

He has not been allowed to speak to a lawyer and has been mistreated in detention. At one stage, he was denied access to daylight for three months despite suffering from a skin ailment.

The reason for his arrest is said to have been the critical comments he posted on Facebook. According to our sources, his arrest was prompted by his comments about religious fatwas on a Facebook page that he created and then deleted for fear of reprisals.

Other sources say he was arrested for criticizing and campaigning on social networks against some of the provisions of the anti-terrorism law that Saudi Arabia adopted in February 2014.

Saudi Arabia is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index and is on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Enemies of the Internet.

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