On 26 November 2016, a Cairo misdemeanour court ruled against novelist Ahmed Naji’s third appeal over his two-year prison sentence for “violating public decency” by publishing “sexually explicit” passages in his novel ‘The Use of Life’, which were also published in a literary magazine in 2014, reported Ahram Online.
The author was sentenced to prison in February 2016 in a retrial after his original case was acquitted in January. The case began after a private citizen brought charges against the author that certain parts of his book left him experiencing “health issues”.
Naji’s previous two appeals in July and August were also rejected. The author has spent nine months in jail.
In February 2016, in addition to Naji’s prison sentence, Tarek El Taher, the literary magazine editor that published the excerpts from Naji’s novel, was fined 10,000 Egyptian Pounds (approx. $570 USD).
Attempt to change public decency law
On 28 November 2016, the Egyptian parliament’s committee on constitutional and legislative affairs rejected a proposal to abolish jail terms for people convicted of publishing materials that “violate public decency”.
The members of parliament who initiated the proposal argued that the law in place – Article 178 of penal code 58 – is unconstitutional as it restricts freedom of expression.
They also proposed that prosecutors, not private citizens, should be the only ones allowed to initiate legal procedures on people are suspected of violating public decency. The committee did agree to that proposed change.
These proposals came after a campaign was started following Naji’s imprisonment.
The law currently states that someone found to have spread materials that go “against public morals” can face a jail term of up to two years and a fine of 5,000 to 50,000 Egyptian Pounds (approx. $280 – $2,800 USD).
» Ahram Online – 28 November 2016:
Egypt parliament committee rejects abolishing of jail terms for ‘violating public decency’
» Egypt Independent – 27 November 2016:
Court rejects request to release novelist Ahmed Naji
» Ahram Online – 26 November 2016:
Egypt court rejects third appeal against prison sentence for novelist Ahmed Naji
» Aswat Masriya – 26 November 2016:
Egypt: Court rules against Ahmed Naji’s third motion for a stay of execution for two-year prison sentence
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» 6 September 2016: Egypt: Author’s sentence upheld over “sexually explicit” novel
» 23 February 2016: Egypt: Author imprisoned for ‘violating public modesty’