New York City, August 18, 2009—PEN American Center today issued a letter to Guatemalan authorities protesting the conviction against Raúl Figueroa Sarti, owner of the publishing house F & G Editores, on “spurious charges” of copyright infringement.

On August 6, 2009, a court in Guatemala City sentenced Raúl Figueroa Sarti to one year in prison and ordered him to pay a 50,000 quetzales fine (approx. US$6,080) for allegedly publishing a photograph on the cover of a 2006 novel without the permission of the photographer, Mardo Arturo Escobar. Figueroa denies the charges, and since filing the case, Escobar has reportedly twice admitted that he did in fact give permission for the photo in question to be used. The prison sentence is reportedly commutable to a daily fine plus litigation costs, but Figueroa is currently under house arrest and is unable to return to the United States, where he lives with his family.

“We are deeply disturbed by this attempt to jail one of Guatemala’s most courageous publishers on spurious copyright infringement charges,” said Larry Siems, Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. “We are shocked by the court’s refusal to examine the full record and recognize exonerating evidence, and fear the proceedings provided a pretext for silencing both Raúl Figueroa Sarti and F & G Editores. We stand with Mr. Figueroa, and call on Guatemalan authorities to move quickly to reverse this terribly flawed conviction.”

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession. For more information on PEN’s work, please visit

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105