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In a tremendous blow to Egypt’s novelists, publishers and readers, the Bulaq Criminal Court today sentenced experimental novelist Ahmed Naji to two years in prison for “public indecency” for the excerpt of his novel Using Life that appeared last year in the Akhbar al-Adab newspaper:
Naji was immediately taken from the courthouse after receiving the maximum sentence, his attorney Mahmoud Othman told reporters.
It was early January that prosecutors challenged Naji’s January 2 acquittal in the case of whether an excerpt from his novelUsing Life had harmed public morals. The novel itself was not banned.
Specifically, the original accuser complained that his “heartbeat fluctuated and blood pressure dropped” while reading the chapter, which Ben Koerber translated into English and which has run on ArabLit.
Naji wrote the experimental novel in collaboration with illustrator Ayman al-Zorqani, who drew for the book.
Journalists Syndicate board member Khaled al-Balshy hailed the verdict as a clear violation of the constitution, which states: “Freedom of thought and opinion is guaranteed. Every individual has the right to express an opinion and to disseminate it verbally, in writing or as an illustration, or by any other means of expression or publication.”
Balshy concluded, “This is literally a prosecution of the writer’s imagination.”