Egyptian Court Vacates Novelist Ahmed Naji’s Sentence, Orders New Trial

Novelist Ahmed Naji has won his appeal before Egypt’s Court of Cassation — in the case of an allegedly sexually provocative novel excerpt — with the court vacating his two-year prison sentence and ordering his retrial:

On Sunday, the Cairo court ordered that the novelist’s previous conviction be cancelled and the case heard by a different court.

Khaled Ali, a lawyer in Naji’s defense team, told Al Masry Al Youm that the verdict demonstrates Naji spent long months in jail despite his innocence, and that “he did nothing but offer excellent work.” Ali expressed to Al Masry Al Youm a hope that his client would be acquitted in the retrial. Ali also posted about the verdict on Facebook, thanking the whole legal team.

The young novelist was originally sentenced in February 2016 for “violating public morals” by publishing what Ahram Online terms a “sexually flagrant article” in the journal Akhbar Al-Adab. This “article,” which appeared in 2015, was an excerpt from Naji’s novel Using Lifewhich will appear in translation by Ben Koerber in November of this year.

Lawyers have relentlessly appealed the sentence, and Naji was released in December 2016 pending a final appeal.

The case has had a number of ups and downs. Naji was charged after an Akhbar al-Adab reader filed a legal complaint because the excerpt allegedly made him feel ill. The novelist was initially acquitted in January 2016. However, the prosecution quickly appealed and won a conviction the very next month.

Naji released a new short-story collection, لغز المهرجان المشطور, at this year’s Cairo International Book Fair. The collection had been in the works for some ten years, and had just come together before he was put in prison in February 2016. The new collection was published by Dar Merit; you can find three short stories, translated by Mona Kareem, on ArabLit. You can find more on the Facebook page MysteriesODS.

After the ruling, Naji wrote about the vacated sentence on his website, and found a photo location that reflected his views on the case.