Jailed Cleric Al-Ahmed Pardoned, Released

King Abdullah has pardoned jailed cleric Yusuf al-Ahmed and he has been released Monday, according to Saudi local media reports. Al-Hayat reported today that they spoke with al-Ahmed’s brother who confirmed that received a phone call from the Royal Court Chief Khaled al-Tuwaijri who told him that King Abdullah has ordered the release of the cleric.

Al-Ahmed, a preacher who teaches at Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University, was arrested in July 2011 after he posted a YouTube video criticizing the Interior Ministry’s long-term detention of security suspects without charge or trial. He was later convicted of incitement against the ruler, sowing sedition, and harming national unity. He was also convicted of publishing material on the internet that posed a threat to national security. Al-Ahmed was sentenced to five years in jail, a fine of SR 100,000 and a travel ban for five years after finishing the jail time.

In 2010, the controversial cleric issued an infamous fatwa in which he called for demolishing the Grand Mosque of Makkah to rebuild the massive structure in a way compliant with strict Saudi rules mandating segregation between sexes.

His release is likely to re-fuel the protests of the people Al-Ahmed was jailed for defending their cause: families of detainees who have been calling for the release of their relatives.