Egypt's press syndicate, rights groups call for release of writer Ahmed Naje

Sunday 21-02-2016 08:03 PM

A previous issue of Akhbar Al-Youm's literature magazine. (Photo from magazine's website)

Egypt's press syndicate presented on Sunday a petition to the top prosecutor demanding the release of Ahmed Naje, who was sentenced  for two years in prison after an “obscene sexual” chapter of his novel appeared in a magazine.

A chapter of Naje’s novel “The Guide for Using Life” was published in August 2014 in the state-run literary magazine Akhbar Al-Adab.

Naje was sentenced on Saturday to two years in prison for violating public decency while the magazine’s Editor-in-chief Tarek al-Taher was only fined EGP 10,000 (around $1277). 

In the petition, 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."

Prosecutors previously said Naje published "written material containing lust," adding that he let his mind and pen be used for "malicious" purposes in "violation of the sanctity of public morals" and leading to temptation.

Last January, a Cairo misdemeanour court acquitted both Naje and Taher. Prosecutors, however, appealed the court’s decision. 

There remains one final window for appeal, and that is before Egypt's Court of Cassation. 

The verdict issued against Naje and Taher has been scrutinised by local rights groups who called for Naje's "immediate release" and "the immediate cessation of all forms of violations of the constitution.”

In a Sunday statement, twelve rights groups, including the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, called for Naje and Taher's release and said that Egyptian authorities are launching a "vicious attack" on freedom of creativity and artistic expression.

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