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Saudi Arabian bloggers rattled by first arrest of online critic

The arrest of Fouad al-Farhan, one of the few bloggers to use his own name, may be an attempt to intimidate others.

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Saudi Arabia's most popular blogger, Fouad al-Farhan, has been detained for questioning, an Interior Ministry spokesman confirmed Monday. It was the first known arrest of an online critic in the kingdom.

Mr. Farhan, 32, who used his blog to criticize corruption and call for political reform, was detained "for violating rules not related to state security," according to the spokesman, Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, responding to repeated requests for comment with a brief cellphone text message.

Farhan's Dec. 10 arrest was reported last week on the Internet and has been condemned by bloggers in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Bahrain. The Saudi news media have not yet reported the arrest, but more than 200 bloggers in the kingdom have criticized Farhan's detention, and a group of supporters have set up a Free Fouad website.

Farhan, who was educated in the United States and owns a computer programming company, was arrested at his office in Jeddah. He was then brought home, where his laptop was confiscated, said his wife, who spoke on condition that her name not be published to protect her privacy.

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