Egypt: Author imprisoned for ‘violating public modesty’

23 February 2016

On 20 February 2016, the Egyptian author Ahmed Naji was sentenced to two years in prison by a Cairo appeals court for having published in a magazine a sexually explicit excerpt of his novel that prosecutors said “violated public modesty”. 

Naji (also spelled: Naje) was initially acquitted, but after the case garnered widespread media coverage, prosecutors appealed the verdict, and in the latest ruling he received the maximum penalty.

A chapter of Naji’s novel ‘The Guide for Using Life’, which was printed in Beirut, was published in August 2014 in the state-run literary magazine Akhbar Al-Adab. Naji said his novel was approved by Egyptian censors, and has been available in local bookstores.

Naji’s defense team can appeal the verdict at the cassation court, which looks into the procedures of the case. His lawyers said they are still debating their next move.

They have argued that the law in question, which prohibits publishing anything that “violates public modesty,” is unconstitutional. Egypt’s constitution states that artists, writers, and other creative individuals should not be imprisoned for their work.

Egypt’s press syndicate presented a petition on 21 February 2016 to the top prosecutor demanding the release of Ahmed Naji. The syndicate said that the verdict constitutes a “violation” against the Egyptian constitution. Article 67 of the constitution stipulates that the “freedom of artistic and literary creativity is guaranteed. The state shall encourage arts and literature, sponsor creative artists and writers and protect their productions, and provide the means necessary for achieving this end.”

Photo above: Courtesy of Ramy Yaacoub ‏who tweeted the photo with the text: “Dear friend, novelist and journalist Ahmed Naji (@anaje) listens to arguments on behalf of the defence during the meeting”

Admed Naji’s Twitter account


» Article 19 – 22 February 2016:
Egypt: Sentencing of Author Ahmed Naji to two years in prison violates freedom of expression

» CNN – 22 February 2016:
Egyptian author gets two-year prison term for ‘sexually explicit’ writings

» The Guardian – 21 February 2016:
Egypt jails author Ahmed Naji for sexually explicit book

» All Africa – 21 February 2016:
Egypt’s Press Syndicate, Rights Groups Call for Release of Writer Ahmed Naje

» New York Times / Associated Press – 20 February 2016:
Egypt Author Jailed for Violating ‘Public Modesty’

» ABC News – 20 February 2016:
Egypt Author Jailed for Violating ‘Public Modesty’

Previous posts on this case

» Artsfreedom – 6 January 2016:
Egypt: Novelist acquitted

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