Saudi confiscates Islamist publisher’s books at fair

A woman examines a book during a book fair in Riyadh March 5, 2014. — Reuters pic
A woman examines a book during a book fair in Riyadh March 5, 2014. — Reuters pic

RIYADH, March 12 — Saudi authorities have closed the stall of an Islamist publisher at the annual book fair and confiscated all his publications, citing threats to the kingdom’s security.

The stall of the Arab Network for Research and Publishing disappeared last Friday night from the Riyadh International Book Fair that opened on March 4, a participant said.

“One of the organisers told us that the editor had displayed banned books that may affect security in Saudi Arabia,” he added.

Head of the Arab Network Nawaf al-Qudaimi said on Twitter he had been “surprised to find out on my arrival at the book fair” early on Saturday that another company had taken over his stall during the night.

Qudaimi said his company had not been informed of the decision to shut the stall.

The local Mecca daily quoted the Minister of Culture and Information Abdulaziz Khoja as saying that the publisher “has broken the law by secretly bringing in banned books and trying to distribute them”.

These books “undermine the kingdom’s security and its regime. This is an immoral and illegal act,” the daily quoted Khoja as saying.

“This is why the publishing house’s stall at the fair was shut down and any publisher found breaking the rules will face the same fate,” he warned.

“The kingdom’s security overrides everything else and whoever undermines it will not be tolerated.”

Qudaimi, whose publishing house has offices in Cairo and Beirut, is considered to be close to the political ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in many Arab states.

The closure of the bookstall comes after the interior ministry published a list of “terror” groups in a move which analysts have warned could further affect civil liberties in the absolute monarchy.

On the list is the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Nusra Front, which is Al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, another jihadist group fighting in Syria and Iraq.

The head of the Saudi publishers association Ahmad al-Hamdan had declared before the fair opened that “no books for the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist groups” would be allowed. — AFP

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