Mohamed Hashem of Merit
Photo by: 
Amany Ali Shawky

Update: Prosecution orders release of Merit Publishing House staff member, summons founder

Prosecution ordered the release of Merit Publishing House staff member Mohamed Zein on Tuesday evening shortly after the downtown office was raided, lawyer Mohamed Fathy told Mada Masr.

Fathy stated that the raid was prompted by a complaint filed against the publishing house for operating without a license and selling unregistered books. Prosecution questioned Zein on whether the institution has hosted political seminars and whether its founder, Mohamed Hashem, is politically active. The lawyer added that Hashem has now been summoned to the prosecutor's office for questioning.

Hashem told Mada Masr that he will not respond to the request and that the upcoming event will proceed as planned.

Zein was arrested during the raid on Tuesday afternoon. An amplifier and a microphone were also confiscated from the premises, Hashem reported to Mada Masr at the time.

When Zein was transferred to the Abdeen Police Station, Hashem headed there to turn himself in, he said, explaining that a group of friends were told that Zein would be released should he do so.

Hashem believes that the Interior Ministry's Office of Artistic Products Police Department carried out the raid but has no confirmation of this.

Established in 1998, Merit is an important actor in the publishing scene and is known both for its anti-censorship stance and for publishing experimental and unknown work. It publishes a wide variety of books, including poetry, fiction and nonfiction, but with a particular focus on young talent, the kind of writers who previously had to resort to self-publishing and extremely limited distribution.

Famously, during the 18 days of the 2011 revolution, its downtown office was open as a haven for protesters in nearby Tahrir Square.

Hashem believes that the trigger for the raid was a book launch scheduled for Monday evening. “Vodka,” by journalist Sharaf Abdel Shafy, is the follow-up to his earlier controversial book “Journalism prostitution” in which he exposes backdoor dealings and media personalities of the Egyptian media scene. 

“If they want to scare us because of the noise we cause for them, we will continue to be noisy,” Hashem declared.

Hashem wrote on his Facebook account, “We will expose the corrupt and will hold the Sharaf Abdel Shafy event on time. We will expose the oppressors in Saudi Arabia and we will continue to support Ashraf Fayyad.”

The publishing house was planning an event in solidarity with Saudi poet Fayyad, who faces the death penalty in a sentence expected to be implemented in January, and has celebrated his poetry at previous events.

“We will continue to dream about the country of bread, freedom and social justice and you will not scare us,” Hesham stated.

The raid comes just one day after a raid on the Townhouse Gallery and the adjoining Rawabet Theater by an interagency team from the Office of Artistic Products Police Department, Tax Authority, National Security Agency and local office of the Ministry of Manpower. While no staff members were arrested, equipment and documents were confiscated.