January 4, 2017
Despite uncertainty, supporters rejoice at Ahmed Naji’s temporary release from prison
by Kait Howard
The fate of Ahmed Naji, the Egyptian writer jailed since last February for sexually explicit material in his novel, has taken a surprising and tentatively positive turn.
As we last reported, Naji was set to appear before a Cairo appeals court on December 4 to contest a two-year sentence for publishing work that “violates public modesty.” The date was subsequently pushed back to December 15, at which point the court suspended Naji’s sentence and released him from prison pending an appeal scheduled for April 2, PEN International reported. Authorities had previously rejected motions for his release awaiting the appeal.
Naji’s plight has sparked an outpouring of support in the form of petitions, letters to the Egyptian president, and social media action, and protesters rejoiced at his temporary release. Still, many news sources have been slow to emphasize that he remains in limbo until the next court appearance, when, according to the Guardian’s Sian Cain, the court will “either decide to order another trial or send him back to prison.”
In a heartwarming Facebook post published a couple days after his release, Naji, who apparently had no information about the massive international outcry on his behalf while he was imprisoned, expressed gratitude and disbelief at the “love and solidarity” that exceeded his expectations. “This was unbelievable, specifically for someone who is neither a social figure nor a cultural one,” he wrote. “Thanks to those whom I didn’t know as they opened my eyes on a world I thought was as fragile as a glass while it is stronger than water.”
@Penamerica welcomes good news today from Egypt, as Ahmed Naji finally makes it home. Help us #KeepNajiFree! pic.twitter.com/pu0scpi5yR
— PEN America (@PENamerican) December 22, 2016
Kait Howard is a publicist at Melville House.