An Egyptian author will now face two-year jail sentence for publishing “sexually explicit” imagery referring to sex and drugs.
An Egyptian citizen filed the charges against Ahmed Naji (30). He claims that Naji’s novel made him ill and caused fluctuations in blood pressure and heart beat.
The book, “The Guide For Using Life” addresses “what young people do in Cairo”. Last year, an extract from the book was published in a magazine called Akhbar al-Adab (News of Literature), bringing the complaint.
The editor of the magazine, Tarek El Taher was fined £885 for publishing it.
In January, the court overturned the verdict, but following the prosecution’s appeal, the case was brought into court. And then Naji was sentenced on Saturday.
Naji had earlier said that the book was approved by Egyptian censorship board.
Naji’s lawyer Mahmoud Othman said: “They didn’t consider the constitution at all, which says you can’t jail artists. Article 67 of the constitution states this, and the constitution trumps all.”
Ramy Yaacoub, a political analyst and friend of the defendant shared a picture of Naji bowing his head in the courtroom.
Several authors have defended Naji, and said that the decision will smother freedom of speech.
An Egyptian columnist, Ibrahim Eissa criticised Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi for running the state like “his deposed Islamist predecessor Mohammed Morsi.”, according to a report by IBTimes.
“Your state and its agencies, just like those of your predecessor, hate intellectuals, thought and creativity and only like hypocrites, flatterers and composers of poems of support and flattery,” Eissa said.
“Today’s verdict is a travesty for freedom of expression and justice more broadly. It comes in the context of a broader crackdown which has brought us the detention of academics at airports, the harassment of cartoonists for their artwork, and the raiding of publishing houses,” said Mai El-Sadany, an expert on Egyptian law at the Robert F Kennedy Center for Human Rights in Washington DC, in a report by The Guardian.