Court Suspends Novelist Ahmed Naji’s Sentence, Lawyer Says Release Imminent

Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji’s two-year prison sentence — handed down for an excerpt of his novel Using Life — was suspended today pending a fresh verdict on January 1, 2017:

najiNaji has been in jail since February of this year on charges of violating public modesty.

Lawyer Khaled Ali told Ahram Online that the court has instructed jail authorities to release Naji, but the experimental novelist and journalist will be under a travel ban. Mada Masr reported that lawyer Mahmoud Osman said Naji is expected to be released later today, “after Tora Prison authorities receive a fax from the South Cairo Criminal Court.”

Osman further told Mada Masr that a department within the South Cairo Criminal Court, “delegated by the Court of Cassation to speed up the process of reviewing urgent cases, has been tasked with examining Naji’s case on January 1.”

This was the fourth attempt by Naji’s legal team to have the sentence suspended pending appeal. The previous three were unsucessful.

The text in question, a chapter of his hybrid graphic novel Using Life, ran in Akhbar al-Adab magazine.

A court acquitted Naji in December 2015, as was expected. But the prosecution appealed, and, in February 2016, Naji was sentenced to two years and immediately put in prison.

Naji’s case has received worldwide attention. Recently, he was one of the five writers in focus on November 15, for PEN International’s “Day of the Imprisoned Writer.” However, this movement did not seem to be making an impact with the Egyptian government, as the country’s constitutional and legislative affairs committee this month rejected proposals by two MPs to abolish jail terms for authors convicted of violating public decency.

Read: Three New Short-short Stories by Imprisoned Writer Ahmed Naji

Read the excerpt that got Naji two years in prison.