As I sit here listening to a repeat local broadcast of Naomi Wolf tell us about current parallels to Weimar Germany (hint: think “Blackwater in the streets”)… we’ll jump right in with the WaPo’s account of the detention of Saudi blogger Fouad al-Farhan. Fouad had, evidently, been warned that his blogging, which often was critical of government corruption and critical of other arbitrary detentions in Saudi Arabia, might get him in trouble. Apparently it has, as he has been arrested for violating mysterious “regulations not related to state security”.
Our supposed key ally Saudi Arabia, now led by King Abdullah, who, to his credit, has lightened up a bit on the usual absolute ban on dissent, is nonetheless in no sense, no sense whatsoever, a bastion of freedom of, well, anything.
In Fouad’s case, it seems, his criticism of the arbitrary detention of a group of men detained must have pissed off someone important:
Even so, Farhan told The Washington Post and others in early December that an Interior Ministry official had warned him that he would be detained because of his online support for a group of men arrested in February and held without charge or trial.
At the time of their arrest, the government accused the Jiddah-based group, made up of a former judge, academics and businessmen, of supporting terrorism. The men’s attorney, Bassim Alim, had said they were arrested for their political activism and their plans to form a civil rights group.
Oh well. An aberration (Fouad is supposedly the first arrest of an on-line government critic in Saudi)… or a roadmap (after all, China has been doing this sort of thing for… some time)?
We’ll just file this as one of the early cautionary tales of our brand new year.