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Saudi Arabia detains Egyptian publisher participating in Riyadh Book Fair

Ahmed Diouf has lost contact with family and friends since his detention, with an online hashtag calling for the disclosure of his whereabouts
Ahmed Diouf was arrested by Saudi authorities at an event during the Riyadh International Book Fair on 8 October 2022 (Social media)

Saudi authorities arrested an Egyptian publisher who was taking part in the Riyadh International Book Fair earlier this month and his whereabouts remain unknown to his family and friends, according to local reports.

On 8 October, the last day of the Riyadh Book Fair, Ahmed Diouf was arrested by Saudi security services while participating as the co-founder and representative of Kotopia, an independent publishing house.

Ibrahim Ahmed Essa, the director of Kotopia, raised the issue of his arrest and disappearance in a Facebook post on 23 October, adding that everyone had previously avoided publishing anything about it for fear of repercussions against Diouf in a Saudi jail.

Essa said that Diouf was representing Egypt at the Riyadh International Book Fair and that he had informed the Publishers' Association, the Egyptian embassy in Riyadh, the Egyptian Presidency, the Cabinet, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs offices about his arrest.

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"We also asked the fair management, and they did not have any information," he wrote.

Essa added: "Until now, no official response has clarified where Ahmed is?! What is the reason for his arrest? He was in an international exhibition representing the Arab Republic of Egypt!"

Egypt confirms arrest

According to Mada Masr news website, the Egyptian foreign ministry told Diouf's family that he was under arrest and facing an investigation in Saudi Arabia.

Egypt's foreign ministry official did not explain the accusations against Diouf, Mada Masr reported.

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Riyadh International Book Fair 2022 is an annual event, this year held between 29 September and 8 October.

Kotopia publishing house, in which Diouf acted as its director of international book fairs, was participating as part of the Egyptian pavilion.

Kotopia said in a statement that: "We understand the desire of many to know the details in order to be reassured and provide assistance.

"We follow all available official channels and are keen to choose our steps to ensure the safety and freedom of our friend."

Mada Masr reported that this was the third visit of Diouf to Saudi Arabia and that he was apolitical, while Kotopia house does not publish contemporary political or religious books but fiction, thrillers, and historical ones.

Family and friends of Diouf have launched an online hashtag "Where is Diouf" calling for the disclosure of his whereabouts.

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