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Saudi blogger free after four-month ordeal

Al Farhan finally released after being kept in solitary and questioned daily.

Jailed Saudi blogger Fouad Al Farhan has finally been freed after more than four months behind bars without charge, a colleague said on Saturday.

Al Farhan was arrested in Jeddah on December 10 for online criticism of government policies, including detentions without charge and trial of prisoners of conscience.

It is believed to be the first arrest of an online critic in the kingdom.

"I received a mobile phone message from his wife at 5:30 am this morning saying he was released," said Ahmed Al Omran.

"It was surprising. After blocking his website, I thought his detention would go on longer. It's good news."

During his ordeal at Jeddah’s Dahban Prison, Al Farhan was kept in solitary confinement and subjected to daily questioning, according to his family.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International also expressed fears that Al Farhan was being tortured, stating that the total secrecy surrounding the blogger's detention indicated he was being mistreated.

Authorities allowed Al Farhan's father-in-law was allowed a short visit on January 5 and his mother was permitted a brief telephone call on February 12, according to local media reports.

Al-Farhan’s blog - 'Searching for freedom, dignity, justice, equality, Shura and all the rest of lost Islamic values' - has posted a letter, allegedly from Al-Farhan, which states he believes he was arrested because he “wrote about political prisoners in Saudi Arabia”.

His arrest and imprisonment has sparked the launch of several campaigns and appeals for his release by international and Saudi NGOs, including the Arabic Network for Human Rights, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists.