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Riyadh has detained two foreign journalists for months, media group says

Reporters Without Borders says it doesn't know where Marwan al-Muraisi and Abdel Rahman Farhaneh are being held
Riyadh's rights record has come under increased scrutiny since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi (AFP)

Saudi Arabia has detained two foreign journalists, press freedom group Reports Without Borders (RSF) confirmed, but the pair's whereabouts and the reasons for their detention remain unknown.

The Saudi authorities detained Yemeni journalist Marwan al-Muraisi in June 2018, RSF confirmed on Monday, citing a tweet by al-Muraisi's wife from earlier this month.

She said she spoke to her husband by phone, but that she doesn't know where he is being held, RSF said in its statement.

Abdel Rahman Farhaneh, a Jordanian journalist in his 60s, went missing in late February in Dammam, a city in eastern Saudi Arabia, where he has lived for more than three decades, the group also said on Monday.

The group also said the Jordanian embassy received promises from the kingdom that Farhaneh will be released "soon", but it did not get an exact timetable.

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"As is the case with Muraisi, it is still not known where Farhaneh is being held," RSF said.

Saudi Arabia has not yet officially commented on the detention of either journalist, and it remains unclear why they were detained.

Farhaneh had written for Al Jazeera, the Qatari news outlet that was banned in Saudi Arabia after Riyadh broke ties with Doha in June 2017.

Saudi Arabia has come under increasing global scrutiny over its human rights record since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year inside the kingdom's Istanbul consulate.

That pressure has mounted even more amid outrage over the continued detention of around a dozen Saudi women's rights activists.

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that a covert Saudi death squad, which Middle East Eye exposed in October, had been involved in the detention and abuse of the activists.

They were detained last spring and summer as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a massive purge of perceived political opponents, human rights activists, and others across the country.

The Gulf kingdom has one of the world's highest rates of executions, with suspects convicted of terrorism, homicide, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking charges facing the death penalty.

In its statement on Monday, RSF called on the Saudi government to release 29 detained journalists and bloggers.