Egyptian Author Goes Back to Court for “Harming Public Morality”

Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji and newspaper editor Tarek e-Taher are going back to court to be retried for allegedly “harming public morality” just a few short weeks after being acquitted of the same charges.

Naji and el-Taher were first brought to court last November after a 65-year-old man claimed that an excerpt of the author’s book, The Use of Life, printed in Akhbar al-Adab newspaper caused him to have heart palpitations and inflicted severe illness. The excerpt of the experimental novel, which incorporates comics drawn by Ayman al-Zorkany, included references to drug use and sexual acts — both things that Egyptian prosecutors considered amoral and a violation of public decency.

In December Naji’s lawyer Nasser Amin challenged the constitutionality of laws that prosecutors were using to back their case, stating that the legal actions being taken against the author were part of a larger effort by the Egyptian government to exert control over the press. Coupled with a strong defense of artistic integrity, Naji and el-Taher were acquitted of all charges in early January.

Egyptian prosecutors weren’t deterred by the acquittal. They have challenged the verdict, and both gentlemen will be retried early next month, where they will face again a possible 2-year prison sentence and 10,000 Egyptian pound fine ($1,245).

CBLDF will continue to follow the story and post more information as it becomes available.

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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!