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Saudi Arabia Frees Some Bloggers, Writers Held Last Week

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 11/28/2019 Vivian Nereim
a close up of an umbrella: A flag of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia flies during sunset near the corniche promenade in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed said the central elements of his Vision 2030 plan, including the $100 billion Saudi Aramco sale and the effort to boost non-oil revenue, remain on course. © Bloomberg A flag of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia flies during sunset near the corniche promenade in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed said the central elements of his Vision 2030 plan, including the $100 billion Saudi Aramco sale and the effort to boost non-oil revenue, remain on course.

(Bloomberg) -- Several Saudi intellectuals who were among a group of at least eight detained in the kingdom last week have been released, people familiar with the cases said.

Prominent blogger Fouad Al-Farhan was one of those freed, according to one of the people, who all asked not to be named, and a tweet by Al-Farhan.

“It’s a new day and a new life,” he wrote on Twitter, saying that he was excited to return to work.

Family members of some of those still held have been told their relatives will be released in the coming days, according to two other people.

It’s unclear if those released face charges or have had conditions attached to their freedom. The detentions triggered widespread media coverage and condemnation from human rights groups.

Even as officials move forward with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan to overhaul the conservative Islamic kingdom’s economy and ease social restrictions, the government has been clamping down on domestic criticism.

The government didn’t respond to a request for comment about last week’s detentions.

Many of the men held were once active on social media or websites and supported the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011 -- a wave of uprisings against autocratic regimes that was viewed as a destabilizing threat by the Saudi monarchy. However, they’d largely stopped writing years ago and maintained low profiles, starting small businesses or joining the government.

To contact the reporter on this story: Vivian Nereim in Riyadh at vnereim@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at asalha@bloomberg.net, ;Benjamin Harvey at bharvey11@bloomberg.net, Mark Williams, Michael Gunn

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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