Novelist and Journalist Ahmed Naji was sentenced on February 20, 2016 to two years in prison for “violating public morals” after publishing a book with references to sex and drugs.
The sentence was delivered by the Bulaq Criminal Court, despite his acquittal in January 2016. The prosecutor appealed the decision.
The story began when Akhbar al-Adab, a top literary magazine published an excerpt from Naji’s novel “The Guide for Using Life” in August 2014.
Lawyers were told during investigations that the citizen who filed the lawsuit complained that his heartbeat fluctuated, blood pressure dropped, and he became severely ill upon reading the chapter in the magazine containing explicit sex scenes and references to habitual cannabis use by the characters.
Naji says his book was printed in Beirut and had already been approved by Egyptian censors. The novel is available in local bookstores, and is rated 3.5 out of five stars on Goodreads.com
Mahmoud Othman, a lawyer-representing writer Naji, said the case had been registered as misdemeanour. “They didn’t consider the constitution at all, which says you can’t jail artists,” said Naji’s lawyer after the verdict.
“Article 67 of the constitution states this, and the constitution trumps all.” He added.
A delegation from the Egyptian Journalism Syndicate visited Naji in his place of detention after the verdict was executed.
Naji worked as a contributor and Arabic consultant to Deutsche Welle in Germany. He is also a senior staff writer at Akhbar Al Adab and a weekly columnist at Al Masry Al Youm. He authored two books that have been translated to various languages.
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