After serving 10 months of a two-year prison sentence for literary obscenity, Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji is expected to be released today after an appeals court suspended his sentence over the weekend. His case is still proceeding, however, and the court will review his appeal on January 1.
Naji was convicted in February of “violating public modesty” with an excerpt from his book Use of Life which was reprinted in the state-owned Akhbar al-Adab newspaper. The book is an experimental work that incorporates visual elements, including comics drawn by Ayman al-Zorkany. A 65-year-old reader claimed that the excerpt caused him to have heart palpitations, a drop in blood pressure, and severe illness because of its references to sexual acts and drug use. In addition to Naji’s prison sentence, the newspaper’s editor Tarek el-Taher also received a fine equivalent to about $1,300.
Naji was recently included on a list of prisoners recommended for pardon by the Egyptian parliament’s Detained Youth Committee. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will make the final decision on the pardons, and only prisoners who have already exhausted all their appeals are eligible. Naji does not fall into that category, so will have to go through with his next appeal hearing on January 1. If the appeal is denied, he could still be re-imprisoned.
Naji’s release has been delayed due to what The Guardian called a “complication over paperwork” but sources on Twitter divulged was actually a malfunctioning fax machine that did not allow the release form to be transmitted. We hope to hear the official good news very soon, and moreover that Naji will remain free after his next hearing!
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.