Novelist Ahmed Naji had some star-power witnesses come to defend him at his trial yesterday:
Former Minister of Culture Gaber Asfour, multi-award-winning novelist Sonallah Ibrahim, and novelist and head of the Egyptian Writers Union Mohamed Salamawy stood before the court on Saturday as defense witnesses.
Naji and Akhbar al-Adab editor-in-chief Tarek al-Taher were referred to a criminal court because of the “obscene sexual content” of an excerpted chapter of his novel, The Use of Life (استخدام الحياة), which was published in 2014 and has been on sale at major bookshops for a year. It is not the novel on trial, but a single chapter that, according to a criminal complaint, gave a reader blood-pressure problems.
According to a report in Mada Masr:
The prosecution asserted “the defendant went too far with his intellectual abnormality by describing sinful sexual relationships using terms that turn humans into animals that chase after their desires,” according to AFTE. The prosecution also encouraged the upcoming parliament to enforce stronger punishments for “violating public decency.”
The lawyers who raised the case demanded the defendants be given the maximum penalty, because “we live in a society that doesn’t accept publishing such language in a state-owned newspaper.”
Salmawy and Ibrahim both defended Naji in court, according to Mada Masr. The trial has become very high-profile, with a hashtag #ضد_محاكمة_الخيال (#againstatrialoftheimagination) trending on Twitter.
The trial was adjourned until January 2 for a final verdict, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) reported Saturday.