April 24, 2012

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

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,000 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our serious concern regarding the safety of poet Habib Ali al-Maatiq.

According to our information, on February 22, 2012, Habib Ali al-Maatiq, a poet, journalist, and photographer, was arrested by security forces in the city of Jubail for his coverage of pro-reformist protests in the heavily restricted Eastern Province. He is currently detained without charge at a prison in Dammam. Al-Maatiq writes for and supervises the news web site Al-Fair Cultural Network, which is known for its critical coverage of political unrest in Eastern Province and has also published sermons from Shiite clerics supporting the protests and has since been shut down. A photographer with Al-Fair Cultural Network and the manager of another news web site, Al-Awamia, have also been arrested and detained for attempting to cover the protests.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned for the safety of Habib Ali al-Maatiq, who may be at risk of ill-treatment, and urges that he be given full access to his lawyer and family. We seek assurances that he is not being ill-treated in detention, and call for his immediate and unconditional release in accordance with of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Adel A. Al-Jubeir
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20037
Fax: (202) 944-5983

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