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Austrian PEN: Omar Hazek is Freed from Egyptian Prison

Thursday 24 September 2015 - 1:00am

PEN International is delighted to learn that Egyptian poet and honourary member of Austrian PEN, Omar Hazek, was pardoned and released from the Burj Al-Arab prison in Alexandria this morning. Hazek had been held in custody since his arrest in early December 2013 for taking part in a protest. Austrian PEN's Writers in Prison Committee released the following statement:

Omar Hazek is Freed from Egyptian Prison 

The Egyptian writer and activist Omar Hazek, Honorary Member of PEN Austria, is free! We just received confirmation of his release by his sister.

We are deeply moved and full of joy that the poet and novelist has regained freedom, after almost two years in prison. PEN Austria is preparing an edition in German of his literary works in "edition pen" at Loecker Verlag, Vienna, late this year.

He is one of the 100 prisoners pardoned yesterday by President Sisi, among them journalists and young activists, but also elderly and sick persons. The exceptional activities of PEN International in several countries and also of our Austrian Writers-in-Prison-Committee have enhanced the visibility of this case, which the Egyptian government could appearently not ignore. We want to thank all colleagues who have worked for the release for our Honorary Member.

The 37 year-old writer was employed at the world famous library in Alexandria and was imprisoned 2013 for taking part in a non-permitted demonstration with others in front of the court, probing the case against the secret service murderers of the blogger Chaleed Muhammad Said.

Omar was first housed in a cell 3.5 x 5.5 meters together with 25 inmates, later in a room with 45 prisoners. After his imprisonment the library fired him. His case is one of those in the center of Egypt’s battles for the freedom of expression. Omar contributed to this fight even from prison by public letters. In one of them the closing line reads:

"Ah, here comes the sun, drawing near to the cells […] I’m optimistic that young men and women like you all will not allow tyrants and oppressors to wound the heart of this nation."(Translation Andrew Leber)

PEN Austria has contributed by interventions at the Egyptian Embassy in Vienna, the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Austrian Embassy in Cairo. Our Arabic letter of the bestowal of the Honorary Membership of the Austrian PEN was published in Egypt’s media in print and internet.

Of course we welcome yesterday’s amnesty, but we have to point out that another Honorary Member of PEN Austria, the blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah is still inprisoned, sentenced to five years. We demand his immediate release.

Wolfgang Martin Roth
Chair Writers-in-Prison-Committee President
Helmuth A. Niederle
President

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