14 January 2016
PEN International and Oxfam Novib are deeply disturbed by reports that Egyptian authorities have today refused internationally acclaimed poet Omar Hazek permission to travel to the Netherlands. Hazek was on his way to The Hague to accept the 2016 Oxfam Novib/PEN Award for Freedom of Expression. According to reports, Hazek was detained at Cairo airport, questioned, and later released after several hours of questioning but banned from travelling.
Hazek was due to appear at the opening night of the Writers Unlimited Festival to accept the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award for Freedom of Expression. The award is given annually to honour writers who have fought courageously for freedom of expression in the face of great adversity and despite the risk to their own lives.
Egyptian writer, Alaa Al-Aswany, will be accepting the award on Hazek’s behalf at the award ceremony later today.
Omar Hazek was arrested in Egypt in December 2013 and later sentenced to two years in prison for ‘protesting without permission’ in violation of a restrictive law on assembly while demonstrating in support of the family of a man beaten to death whilst in police custody. While in prison he was adopted as an Honorary Member of Austrian PEN and Danish PEN.
In September 2015 he was one of a 100 prisoners pardoned by a presidential decree. He had served almost two years in prison.
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