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Dozens of writers, artists condemn jailing of Egyptian novelist

Some 150 writers and artists signed a statement condemning a recent jail sentence against an Egyptian novelist over an "sexually explicit" text

Ahram Online , Tuesday 23 Feb 2016
Ahmed Naji
In this undated image Egyptian author Ahmed Naji poses for a photo in Cairo, Egypt (AP)
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Dozens of authors and intellectuals have signed a statement condemning the jailing of an Egyptian author over what authorities deem a "sexually explicit" novel.

Ahmed Nagy was sentenced to two years in prison earlier this week over charges of violating "public decency" after excerpts of his novel "The Use of Life" was published in a literary magazine in 2014. 

A case was brought against him last year by an individual who claimed to have experienced health issues after reading the excerpt.

Nagy was acquitted in January but the prosecution appealed the verdict and he was sentenced in a retrial on Saturday.

A group of 150 writers, intellectuals and artists signed a statement condemning the ruling against Nagy, saying it violates "general and private freedoms."

The signatories, who include writer Alaa El-Aswany, poet Sayed Hegab and director Ali Badrakhan, say the sentence "completely disregards the country's constitution," which prohibits jail sentences over publishing issues.

They expressed concern over what they say is "frivolity and disregard in dealing with freedoms" and the use of "repressive discourse that pays lip service to words like 'ethics'."

The excerpt of Nagy's novel contains explicit descriptions of sexual acts and the use of hashish by the characters.

"Our defence for Nagy... is not just advocating the right of opinion makers and artists to express their views... without being harassed... but is a warning bell against a terrifying path the regime is taking," the statement read.

They say the sentence, which can still be appealed, is part of a multi-dimension assault on a number of writers and journalists over their beliefs.

Several human rights organisations have expressed solidarity with Nagy, demanding the sentence be dropped. 

Egypt's Journalists Syndicate announced on Tuesday it was organising a press conference on Thursday to show solidarity with Nagy and journalists.

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