Saudi Writer Turki Al-Hamad Released from Jail

Prominent Saudi writer Turki al-Hamad has been released after five months of detention. Activist Abdulla al-Alami said on Twitter today that he spoke with al-Hamad’s daughter who confirmed that her father is free now:

Al-Hamad, a political analyst and novelist, was arrested in December after he published a series of controversial tweets criticizing Islamists and calling for a renewal of the Islamic faith. An Islamic organization called the Global Commission for Introducing the Messenger is reported to have filed a complaint with the Saudi Interior Minister who ordered al-Hamad’s arrest.

In January, a group of activists published a petition to Saudi Crown Prince Salman calling for the release of al-Hamad. “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.”

The controversial al-Hamad was jailed in his youth for political activism before moving to the US for graduate school. He came back to Saudi Arabia and worked as a professor at King Saud University in Riyadh before going into early retirement to dedicate more time for writing. He was previously denounced by Saudi clerics for his novels, and they issued several fatwas against him. He told the BBC in 2003 that he has received several death threats.

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that applies a strict interpretation of Islam. Criticism of religion is rarely tolerated. Hamza Kashgari, a young Saudi writer, was arrested in February 2012 after he published some controversial tweets about Prophet Mohammed. He remains in prison.