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PA urged to free West Bank blogger

Nov. 13, 2010 6:52 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 13, 2010 8:01 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Supporters of a Palestinian blogger detained this month over his opinions on religion have launched a petition calling for the young man's release from a Palestinian Authority prison.

Walid Husseini, 25, was detained two weeks ago without charge in the northern West Bank city of Qalqiliya, security officials said and family members confirmed. It was not clear if he had a lawyer.

"Nobody knows anything," said Guss Yonis, the founder of the Arabic-speaking Irreligious Coalition, which is based in Jordan. "They're refusing to release any information about him."

Yonis told Ma'an that his petition, which had been signed by some 200 people by Friday, was intended to draw attention from the media and human rights groups which have remained silent since the arrest.

Security sources have said that the PA launched an investigation over reports that Husseini was behind Facebook and blog posts that had infuriated conservative Muslims in recent months. Some of the posts altered verses from the Koran, the Muslim holy book; others included caricatures of the prophet Muhammad.

The arrest was viewed by many in Qalqiliya as a necessary action on the part of the PA. Questioning religion is considered taboo in Palestinian society, much of which has abandoned a history of popular secularism amid a growing trend toward fundamentalism across the Arab and Muslim world since the 1980s.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has banned Facebook, The Associated Press reported Saturday. The authorities reportedly deemed the popular social networking site as in conflict with their strictures.
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