Mohamed Hashem belongs in the same company as Havel and Hitchens

Boyd Tonekin in The Independent:

Arab-spring-frankfurt-book-fair-afp-543I first met Mohamed Hashem as, wreathed in smoke from his endless cigarettes, and holding a glass of red wine, he talked and joked among Cairo's writers and publishers at a party at the Nile Hilton – not much more than a stone's throw from Tahrir Square. Although only a few years back, it felt then as if Hashem – journalist and author turned fearless, pioneering publisher – still had a mountain to climb in his campaigns for freedom of thought and expression against Egypt's entwined establishments, religious and political alike.

Then came the revolution. The books and writers he championed through his independent house Dar Merit – the boldest in Egypt, committed to quality as much as liberty, and the imprint that launched the career of global bestseller Alaa Al-Aswany – did much more to prepare the ground for rapid change than any Facebook page or Twitter feed. But with this spring's triumph came new dangers. General Adel Emara of the ruling military council recently denounced Hashem as a “saboteur”. According to the general, he has used the Merit offices near Tahrir Square to “incite violence” – by distributing free food, head protection and gas masks to protesters! According to Hashem, an arrest warrant against him has been drawn up, though as I write the authorities have made no attempt to seize him.

More here.