The 10-day fair is a major cultural event in Saudi Arabia. Image Credit: Sabq

Manama: Saudi Arabia has shut down the stall of a publisher at the Riyadh International Book Fair for selling banned Muslim Brotherhood books.

“We conducted an inspection, and we discovered that the publisher was hiding the books and selling them secretly,” Abdul Rahman Al Asem, the supervisor of the fair, said. “Unfortunately, some publishers insist on bringing books that they know are banned. In this case, the publisher brought in banned books, but he was not displaying them. We took the necessary measures and the stall was shut down.”

Any publisher who breaks the rules of the book fair will be banned from participating in it forever, he added.

“There is solid coordination between the heads of the various fairs in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and any publisher banned in any member country will also be banned in the others,” he said, quoted by Saudi news site Sabq on Tuesday.

The GCC, established in 1981, is made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Al Asem said the decision was not against freedom of expression, thought or culture.

“The sale of books by a banned group that poses a risk to the country cannot be tolerated. We cannot allow a book fair hosted by Saudi Arabia to sell books by a group that is classified as a terrorist. We do need to protect our country,” he said.

Saudi Arabia in 2014 classified the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation and banned all forms of contacts with it.

The 10-day fair opened last week under the theme 'Books - Future of Change' and features more than 500 Arab and international publishing houses.