PEN Issues Statement About Case Against Palestinian Author Abbad Yahya and His ‘Crime in Ramallah’

Yesterday, English PEN issued a statement in solidarity with Palestinian writer Abbad Yahya, current unable to leave Qatar for home:

crimeThe statement addressed the Palestinian Attorney General’s banning of Abbad Yahya’s Crime in Ramallah and move to prosecute the author over an alleged threat to morality and public decency, calling these moves a “gross violation of his right to freedom of expression.”

Yahya is staying in Qatar following the AG office’s confiscation of all copies of Crime in Ramallah on February 6 and issue of a summons for Yahia, his publisher, and the book’s distributor. The latter, Fuad al-Akleek, was detained and released.

Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, said in a prepared statement:

It is appalling that Abbad Yahya cannot return home because he fears he may be arrested over a novel he has written. The response to his novel is not only disproportionate; it is entirely out of place. Abbad Yahya’s novel may have challenged political and religious orthodoxy, but he has the right to express his thoughts. The Palestinian Authority should take immediate steps to overturn the ban and ensure that he will be able to return home safely and protected from any threats.

The book has become a political football, with the Hamas Ministry of Culture issuing a press release condemning the novel on February 10 and the Department of Culture and Information of the Palestine Liberation Organisation condemning the Attorney General’s decision.

The PEN statement concludes:

English PEN joins PEN International in calling on the Attorney General to close its investigation into Abbad Yahya, and reverse the ban of Crime in Ramallah. Furthermore, PEN also calls on the Palestinian authorities to allow Yahya to return home safely without threat of prosecution and to protect him from harm.