Saudi Activists Petition Crown Prince to Release Al-Hamad

A group of activists have published a petition calling for the release of detained writer Turki al-Hamad. The petition, directed to Saudi Crown Prince Salman, was signed by 437 people since it was posted online Sunday. The first signature belongs to famous Arab poet Adunis, followed by writer Ahmed Adnan and activist Manal al-Sharif.

“The unjust detention of Dr. Al Hamad is unworthy of him and unworthy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the petition said. “Thus it is condemned, reprehensible, shameful and unacceptable.”

Al-Hamad was arrested on December 24 based on orders from Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Naif after receiving a complaint from an Islamic organization who objected to a series of tweets by al-Hamad in which he criticized Islamists. A political analyst and novelist, he was previously denounced by clerics in Saudi Arabia for his novels. They issued several fatwas against him.

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that applies a strict interpretation of Islam. Criticism of religion is rarely tolerated by the authorities. Young writer Hamza Kashgari was arrested last February after he published controversial tweets about Prophet Mohammed.

The petition described the Crown Prince as “a friend to journalists and intellectuals” and asked him to act quickly on the case of al-Hamad who remains in detention but was allowed to be visited by his family.

“We hope, demand and expect a quick decision to be made to correct this grave error that has been committed against Dr. Al Hamad.” the petition said. “This wrong should be righted by his immediate and unconditional release.”