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Writer, Editor on Trial in Egypt for Publishing Sexual Content ‘Contrary to Public Morals’

An Egyptian writer and editor-in-chief face up to two years in prison for publishing sexual content “that was contrary to public morals.”

The charges against writer Ahmed Naji and editor-in-chief Tarek el-Taher are misdemeanors. Naji’s lawyer Mahmoud Othman told the media his client “faces up to two years in jail and a fine up to 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,245) if proven guilty.”

Taher’s literary magazine Akhbar al-Adabpublished an excerpt from” Naji’s book The Use of Life in August 2014. Naji claims a citizen filed the lawsuit because “his heartbeat fluctuated, blood pressure dropped and he became severely ill” when he read the chapter.

Naji also claims Egyptian media censors approved his book, which is sold in local bookstores. The book includes sex and “references to habitual hashish,” which is a cannabis product.

The Guide for Using Life book cover by Ahmed Naji. Illustration: Merdar

The Guide for Using Life book cover by Ahmed Naji. Illustration: Merdar

Othman, who works for the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, only received details of the case after he searched for the file at the prosecution office.

The court plans to charge the men under a penal code that punishes people “who published material that was contrary to public morals.” But Othman believes the law contradicts the constitution since it “states an individual shall not be imprisoned for published materials.”

“The state says it is against a theocratic state and is fighting extremist religious thought, but on the other hand it talks about how expressions violate public modesty,” he said.

In October, the media reported that Egyptian actress and television host Entesar is facing charges of debauchery and blasphemy after telling young men to watch pornography. Three police reports were filed against the host. One complaint stated that she “called on her audience to watch pornography as it is very beneficial to educate youth before marriage.” This way the young men can “satisfy their needs” while they save up for a wedding.

Masturbation and pornography are considered sins in Islam. In 2012, Egypt’s top prosecutor ordered the government to ban pornography. A year later, the Administrative Court decided not to enforce the ban, since it would cost the country $16.5 million “to implement and would strain Egypt’s ailing internet infrastructure.”

However, the ban surfaced again when rumors circulated that a film group had produced a pornographic film at the ancient pyramids of Giza. An actress known as Carmen De Luz posted provocative photos of herself at the pyramids on her social media accounts. She denied she had filmed a movie, though.

Pornographic websites remain very popular in Egypt, and “sex” is a frequent search term for Egyptian internet users. At least five of the top 100 most visited websites among Egyptians are pornography sites.

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