PEN welcomes the decision by the Egyptian Court of Cassation to overturn Ahmed Naji’s two-year prison sentence, but remains concerned by the decision to order a retrial. We call for Naji’s full acquittal and urge the Egyptian authorities to respect and protect his right to freedom of expression.
Novelist Ahmed Naji was sentenced to two-years in prison in February 2016 for ‘violating public modesty’ in relation to his book The Use of Life, which was considered to include ‘obscene sexual content’. Naji served 10 months of his sentence before being released on 22 December 2016 when the Egyptian Court of Cassation temporarily suspended the sentence.
At a later hearing, on 21 May 2017, the Egyptian Court of Cassation repealed his two-year prison sentence and ordered his retrial before a new tribunal. Naji remains free pending this retrial, though he continues to be subject to a travel ban.
Salil Tripathi, Chair, PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee, said:
Ahmed Naji has published a novel, and if anyone has objection to the content of the novel, the person has the freedom to offer a critique and indeed the freedom to avoid reading it. By prosecuting him with the prospect of a jail sentence, Egypt will be seeking to silence a critical, uncomfortable voice, and in doing so, violate the right freedom of expression. It should let Naji be free to write.
PEN has been campaigning on behalf of Ahmed Naji since his arrest and will continue to call for him to be able to able to exercise his fundamental right to freedom of expression. #KeepNajiFree