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SAUDI ARABIA: Fears for poet and journalist Habib Ali al-Maatiq

Tuesday 24 April 2012 - 1:00am

RAN 19/12 - 24 April 2012

PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee fears for the safety of poet and journalist Habib Ali al-Maatiq, who has been held without charge since 22 February 2012 for his critical reporting and is feared to be at risk of torture and ill-treatment in detention. PEN calls for his immediate and unconditional release, in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and seeks immediate guarantees of his safety.

According to PEN’s information, journalist and poet Habib Ali al-Maatiq was arrested by security forces on 22 February 2012 at his workplace in the city of Jubail, eastern Saudi Arabia, for his coverage of pro-reformist protests in the heavily restricted Eastern Province in the news website Al-Fajr Cultural Network. He remains detained without charge at a prison in Dammam, the capital of Eastern Province. The website, which has also published sermons by Shiite clerics who support the protests, has been closed down. Another photographer for the Al-Fajr Cultural Network has also been arrested for attempting to cover the issue, as well as the manager of another news website, Al-Awamia. All three men remain detained.

Habib Ali al-Maatiq is a published poet, journalist and photographer who supervised the news website Al-Fajr Cultural Network, known for its critical coverage of political unrest in the country’s Eastern Province. The predominantly Shiite region has consistently faced discrimination and repression, and pro-reform protests are taking place. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) give the following background:
‘The kingdom has obstructed coverage of the protests in the Eastern Province, which call for political reforms and greater rights for the country's Shiite minority... No foreign or local journalists have been allowed to enter the province, and in the absence of independent reporting, coverage of the unrest is carried out by websites like Al-Fajr Cultural Network and Al-Awamia.’
For more information see 16 March 2012 alert by CPJ

READ the poem ‘He’ by Habib Ali al-Maatiq, translated from the Arabic by Ghias Alijundi.

Clean His heart is
And His beautiful spirit
Embraces us
And carries us
To a safe embankment
Like a boat to rescue a drowning spirit.
And truthfulness fills His heart
If you have truthfulness
You bring trust
You are at one with God
And the branch of life
Will continue to blossom
He mops the brow of tired people
With His tender hands
He passes
Like a breeze in the burning summer
Spreading scent like the perfume of a flower
Tender like a mother
He shares
His love
For the exhausted spirits.

Please send appeals:
Expressing grave concerns for the safety of poet Habib Ali al-Maatiq, and urging that he is immediately and unconditionally released, in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
Calling upon the Saudi authorities to provide him with immediate access to lawyers and family.


His Majesty King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court,
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior) +966 1 403 3125
Salutation: Your Majesty

Crown Prince and Minister of the Interior
His Royal Highness Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Ministry of the Interior
P.O.Box 2933, Airport Road,
Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 403 3125
Salutation: Your Majesty Crown Prince and Minister of the Interior

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Saudi Arabia in your country if possible.

**Please contact this office if sending appeals after 15 May 2012**

For further information please contact Cathy McCann at International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: