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U.S. concerned for Saudi blogger

  • Story Highlights
  • U.S. raises case of detained blogger with Saudi government
  • State Dept. spokesman: "The U.S. stands for freedom of expression"
  • Saudi blogger Fouad al-Farhan, 32, was arrested December 10
  • Online letter-writing campaign launched seeking al-Farhan's release
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration has brought its concerns about the detention of a well-known blogger to the Saudi Arabian government at "a relatively senior level," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday.

McCormack, speaking at his regular midday briefing, said the message delivered "was pretty clear."

"The U.S. stands for freedom of expression," he said. "It is an important element of any thriving society. It's a cornerstone of any democratic society. Wherever people are seeking to express themselves, via the Internet or via other areas, whether in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in the world, we stand with that freedom of expression and that was our message to the Saudi government."

Fouad al-Farhan, 32, was arrested December 10 "because he violated the regulations of the kingdom," a spokesman for the Interior Ministry told CNN Wednesday.

In an e-mail posted on his Web site since his arrest, however, al-Farhan told friends that he faced arrest for his support of 10 reform advocates the Saudi government accuses of supporting terrorism.

In the e-mail, al-Farhan said a senior Interior Ministry official promised he would remain in custody for three days at most if he agreed to sign a letter of apology.

"I'm not sure if I'm ready to do that," he said. "An apology for what? Apologizing because I said the government is (a) liar when they accused those guys to be supporting terrorism?"

Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Riyadh, told CNN that al-Farhan "is being interrogated for local law violations" and could be released soon.

"The violation is not a security matter," al-Turki said. "They will get the information that they need from him and then they will let him go."

Al-Farhan, who blogs at, is one of the few Saudi Web commentators who uses his own name, according to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

He was was arrested at his Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, office by government agents who also seized his laptop from his home, the organization said in a statement issued in late December.

The American Islamic Congress, a U.S.-based non-profit organization with bureaus in Basra, Iraq, and Cairo, Egypt, has launched an online letter-writing campaign seeking the release al-Farhan, whom they call "the godfather of Saudi blogging."

Fellow Saudi blogger Ahmed al-Omran told CNN that he "wasn't shocked" by al-Farhan's arrest, but "it was disturbing."

"All he did was express his opinions in a very obvious way and he didn't threaten anyone," al-Omran said. "He was advocating against violence and terrorism."

Al-Omran said that al-Farhan stopped blogging for a few months in late 2006 after the Interior Ministry ordered him to take down a blog he was operating. But he began again later in 2007 at a new online site. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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