File Photo: Writer Ahmed Naji (Photo: Al-Ahram)
Seven members of the outgoing 50-member committee that composed Egypt’s 2014 constitution issued a statement on Monday condemning author Ahmed Naji’s jail sentence, describing it as "unconstitutional."
"Article 67 of the constitution stipulates that freedom of artistic and literary creation is guaranteed and the state shall promote art and literature, sponsor creators and protect their creations, and provide the necessary means of encouragement to achieve this end," the statement read.
On Saturday, a Cairo misdemeanour appeal court sentenced Naji to two years in prison for publishing a “sexually flagrant article” in the state-owned cultural journal Akhbar Al-Adab last year.
The court also fined Tareq El-Taher, the editor-in-chief of the journal , EGP 10,000.
The statement was signed by poet Sayed Hegab, artist Mohamed Abla, writers Mohamed Salmawi, Moasad Abu El-Fagr, Hoda El-Sada, Hagag Adol, and Former Head of the Social Democratic Party Mohamed Abu El-Ghar.
"No lawsuits may be initiated or filed to suspend or confiscate any artistic, literary, or intellectual work, or against their creators except through the public prosecution," the statement demanded.
“No punishments of custodial sanction may be imposed for crimes committed because of the public nature of the artistic, literary, or intellectual product," the statement added.
The verdict against Naji and Taher comes after the prosecution appealed a previous lower court decision cleared on 2 January the two defendants of all charges.
The two journalists were originally referred to court on the prosecution's charges last year and stood trial on 14 November 2015.
The prosecutor accused Naji of publishing a "flagrant erotic article in which the charged writer published a text that spewed sexual lust and transient pleasures, using his mind and pen to violate public decency and good morals, inciting promiscuity."
The seven authors of the constitution called on the prosecutor general to intervene to stop these "unconstitutional" verdicts. They also called on the parliament to review all the restrictive laws against freedom of expression.
The court decision provoked wide criticism among writers and artists.
On Tuesday, a group of 150 writers, intellectuals, and artists signed a statement condemning the ruling against Naji, saying it violates "general and private freedoms.”
Several human rights organisations have also expressed solidarity with the author, demanding the sentence be suspended.
Meanwhile, Egypt's Journalists Syndicate announced on Tuesday it was organising a press conference on Thursday to show solidarity with Naji and journalists.