Trial of Ahmed Naji and editor begins for writing sexually explicit text
Courtesy: Using Life (2014)

Bulaq Criminal Court has adjourned the trial of novelist Ahmed Naji and the chief editor of Akhbar al-Adab, Tarek al-Taher, to December 12, in order to give the defense more time to review the case files.

The charges against both relate to the publication of an excerpt of novel Istakhdem al-Haya (The Use of Life), published in Akhbar al-Adab’s issue 1097 last year.

This includes “the publication of written work that references transient lust and fleeting pleasure,” according to the prosecution.

This text is “a malicious violation of the sanctity of morals and good manners,” it added, and marks “a departure from emotional modesty.”

The case was filed by a 65-year-old man, named as Hani Saleh Tawfik, who claimed the text threatened his sense of morality.

Defense lawyer Mahmoud Othman told Mada Masr: “Today’s session was a procedural session in which we requested adjournment so as to be able to access the case file and the referral to prosecution, as we have not been able to access them so far.”

The defendants were not present in court on Saturday, but a number of witnesses for the prosecution and defense reportedly were.

Naji told Mada Masr he was surprised that a case had been filed against him and that it was escalating.

“There is something incomprehensible about this lawsuit,” he said, adding that both he and Taher “were subjected to an investigation in April, yet our case was not widely covered in the media. We were surprised to find out that the charges against us were leaked to journalists, as was our referral to trial.”

“It seems that the prosecutors want to wage a media battle, the purpose of which remains incomprehensible,” he said. “Perhaps it is because they feel that they are the guardians of morality.”

“Now we are following the legal proceedings of the case, and the court is cooperating with the defense team. They have also agreed to hear the testimonies of a number of defense witnesses whom we have called,” Naji added.

The defense witnesses include: Writer and journalist Mohamed Salmawy, the former Minister of Culture Gaber Asfour, and novelist Sonallah Ibraham.

The case against Naji and Taher is “part of a concerted attack against the media and press freedoms,” member of the Journalists Syndicate Council Mahmoud Kamel commented.

“It is no secret that we are living in the worst era in terms of freedom of expression.” Kamel added. “We attended the prosecution’s investigation with the chief editor, and we explained to them that Akhbar al-Adab is a specialized cultural newspaper.”

“But prosecutors appear determined to mix their issues with the literary text and the publication of the article itself,” he said. “It’s really strange. Is it necessary that each character appearing in a literary or artistic work must be referred to prosecution? On this basis, are rapists or drug dealers in novels to be tried for actual rape or drug trafficking?”


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