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Implications for Rights and Freedoms

Ahmed Naji Public Morality Case

Court / Presiding Judge

First Review: Bulaq Misdemeanour Court/Judge Ehab al-Raheb
Second Review: Bulaq Misdemeanour Appeals Court/Judge Maysara al-Desouky
Final Review: Cairo Criminal Court/Judge Hosni al-Dabea

Procedural History

On January 3, 2016, the court issued its verdict upon first review. On February 20, 2016, the court issued its verdict upon second review. After the verdict was suspended and a retrial was ordered on May 21, 2017, the case was referred to the criminal court system. On April 24, 2018, a verdict was issued.


Upon first review, the court acquitted both defendants. Upon appeal, the court sentenced Ahmed Naji to two years in prison and fined Tariq al-Taher LE10,000. When the court issued its verdict after the case was sent to the criminal system, it instead ordered Naji to pay a fine of LE20,000.

Summary of Reasoning

The case dates back to a complaint filed by a citizen who reportedly read a chapter of Ahmed Naji’s Using Life novel as published in Akhbar al-Adab. He alleged that the chapter harmed his sense of morality. Naji and Taher were charged with harming public morality under Article 178 of the Penal Code. In the first review of the case, the court acquitted Naji and Taher after a finding that the Penal Code was too broad to apply to matters of self-expression and in light of the fact that it would be too difficult to set forth a test for the determination of alleged violations of public morality.

Anecdotal Notes

Many prominent authors testified as defense witnesses in the case, among them Sonallah Ibrahim and Mahmoud Salmawi. This case garnered much public attention and support in light of the fact that it became the first time in Egypt’s history that a novelist faced jail time for explicit content in a fictional work.

Legal & Judicial Implications

In light of the right to freedom of creative expression as protected by Article 67 of the constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the trial of Ahmed Naji raised vital questions on the country’s domestic and international legal obligations and implications for the protections that should be afforded to authors, artists, and other creative producers.