Cairo, Jan 2 (Aswat Masriya) - A Cairo misdemeanor court acquitted a novelist and the editor-in-chief of a literature magazine after the two were accused of “publishing and writing an article with obscene sexual content” and of "offending public decency."
Cairo prosecution referred the case of writer Ahmed Naje and Akhbar al-Adab editor Tarek al-Taher to criminal court last November after Naje’s a chapter from his novel “Using Life,” was published as an article in the weekly literary magazine. It was published on Aug 3, 2015 while the two defendants’ first trial took place on Nov 14.
Naje previously told Aswat Masriya that the decision did not surprise him given the permanent "hostility" that prosecutors display towards the press.
The prosecution’s indictment accused Naje of “maliciously violating public morals and good ethics,” by writing and publishing “obscene sexual content.” It also accused al-Taher of “breaching the duty of supervising the article.” The two were also accused of “contempt for religion.”
The two defendants were referred to the prosecution in accordance with article No. 178 and 200 of Penalties law.
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemned the accusations in a statement, calling Naje’s referral to prosecution, “a flagrant violation of freedom of expression and creativity.” Activists, writers, and other organisations have been sharing Naje’s case under the hashtag “set your imagination free,” in Arabic.
According to the ANHRI statement, Naje posted on his facebook after the accusations, saying “ the prosecution along with Mr. Hany, who filed the complaint, are insisting that the publication is an article not a novel. Therefore, they perceive the acts and thoughts, which are published in the chapter, of the novel’s protagonist “Bassam Bahgat” as a chronicle of confessions in a form of an article that carries my name. I would like to emphasize that the incidents of the published chapter as well as the novel are fictitious, and are not a news article.”
There have also been a string of cases in the past two months where journalists have been detained and questioned by Egyptian authorities, the latest being journalist Ismail Alexandrani who faces charges of joining an illegal group, spreading rumors and disturbing public peace.
Naje's novel itself was published in 2014 by Dar El Tanweer, an Egyptian-Lebanese-Tunisian publishing house established in 1975.