Egypt Jails Author For Two Years Over Sexually Explicit Novel

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An Egyptian policeman mans a tower on Sinai peninsula, February 10, 2015. An Egyptian court has sentenced Ahmed Naji to two years in jail for public indecency after excerpts of his sexually explicit novel were published in a literary newspaper. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

CAIRO, Feb 21 – An Egyptian court has sentenced an author to two years in jail for public indecency after excerpts of his sexually explicit novel were published in a literary newspaper.

A chapter from Ahmed Naji’s novel Istikhdam Al Hayat, or Using Life, was serialized in a state-owned literary newspaper and a case was brought against him last year by a private citizen who claimed the excerpt caused him distress and heart palpitations.

Naji was initially acquitted in January but the prosecution appealed the ruling and he was sentenced to two years in prison in a retrial on Saturday, his lawyer said. The verdict can be appealed.

In the initial ruling the court said it acquitted Naji because freedom of expression was enshrined in the constitution, adding that morality was subjective. The second court is yet to announce its reasons for overturning that ruling.

The newspaper’s editor was ordered to pay a 10,000 Egyptian pound ($1,277.14) fine. The sentence was viewed by fellow authors, journalists, and human rights activists as an affront to freedom of expression.

Several noted authors, some of whom testified in Naji’s favor at court, and human rights organizations, released statements in solidarity.

($1 = 7.8300 Egyptian pounds)

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