Last updated: 30 October, 2011

Three Saudi YouTube social activists released

Three Saudis detained earlier this month after posting an online video showing poverty in the oil-rich kingdom were released on Sunday, activists said.

Firas Baqna, Khalid al-Rasheed and Hussam al-Darwish were arrested in Al-Sahaba district, north of Riyadh, on October 19 after their documentary was aired by the London-based opposition television Al-Islah.

“We can confirm their release … two weeks after their arrest,” the activists told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The series on poverty in Saudi Arabia, first posted on YouTube, is entitled “Malub Aleina,” meaning “We are being cheated” in Arabic.

Al-Islah channel is a mouthpiece for the banned Movement for Islamic Reform in Saudi Arabia, led by Saad al-Faqih.

At the time of their arrest, a rights activist told AFP that the authorities suspected the three young men “were receiving finance from the channel and were taken into custody for interrogation.”

One segment of the YouTube series aired on Al-Islah was filmed in Riyadh’s impoverished neighbourhoods. It featured an interview with a mosque imam claiming poverty was responsible for vice and drug abuse in his neighbourhood.

Saudi Arabia, where protests are banned, has a burgeoning youth population, with more than 50 percent aged 24 or under, according to the latest Arab Human Development report, and faces a challenge in providing jobs for graduates.