AFTE condemns violations by artistic works intelligence against Mohamed Hassan Ahmed Ghoneim, owner of El Kalima bookshop, which began since 2001 and continues until today, taking several forms, the most recent of which is the pending decision of the prosecution in case no. 3015/2010, where he is accused of exhibiting the Koran without permission from the Academy of Islamic Research. Law 102/1985 regulating the printing of the holy book and the sayings of the Prophet specifies a punishment of imprisonment and fine for anybody who undertakes the printing, publication, exhibition, distribution or circulation of the Koran or prophet’s sayings without prior permission from the Academy of Islamic Research. It is noteworthy that the number of copies found on the owner by the intelligence of artistic works is only two, and as revealed during the interrogations, is private property of the owner of the bookshop.
Those violations began first when the commercial registrar refused to permit him an alteration in the activity of the bookshop denying him permission to publish. The registrar clearly declared that the reason behind its refusal was the objection of “security bodies” to add the activity of publishing to the bookshop owned by the publisher. Consequently the owner filed a lawsuit in front of the state court demanding a stop and cancellation of the decree of the commercial registrar in Cairo. The owner won the case on the 26th of September 2002.
Later in 2008 when the publisher sought to amend the contract of his company to open a new branch and change the name of the main partner in view of a mistake in the name, he was met by difficulties again by the commercial registrar, claiming that it should first undertake a “security review”” before making those amendments. Once again he filed another lawsuit against the decision of the registrar and once again he won his case on the 23rd of March 2010.
Third, in 2008 the intelligence of artistic works confiscated two books: Europe and Christianity (4 volumes) and Sex in world religions (two copies) claiming they have not been licensed or registered with the national book department. It was later revealed that those books are the owner’s private property and were taken from his private library.
Fourth, in 2010 publisher Mohamed Hassan was accused by the intelligence of artistic works and intellectual property rights in case no. 3062/2009 Cairo economic misdemeanors, registered as case 4658/2009 financial misdemeanors, of possessing, without permission two books: “The weak and the strong” by Paul Tournier and “Our prisoners behind bars” by Adel Salem, in his bookshop, claiming that the publisher has no contracts or permits for printing, publishing or translation. The committee authorized by the court to examine the confiscated material concluded that both are publications belonging to the Dar El Kalima bookshop and hence the court acquitted him.
AFTE believes that the freedom of publication is inseparable from the freedom of opinion, expression and creativity granted by articles 47 and 49 of the Egyptian constitution, which is constantly being violated by censorship authorities, targeting a tightened control over publishers and publishing houses through exposing them to security harassments and attempting to defame their reputations. In this case the publisher was Mohamed Hassan Ahmed Ghoneim and his bookshop Dar El Kalima. AFTE denounces those harassments in view of their violation of freedom of thought and expression in Egypt.
AFTE appeals to the Federation of Egyptian Publishers to bear their responsibility in protecting publishers, considering that Mohamed Hassan is a member. The main role of the federation is to protect publishers from such hazards and breaches as suffered by the owner of El Kalima bookshop. In the absence of such protection, AFTE questions the role of the federation.