State media said that a Cairo misdemeanour court acquitted novelist and journalist Ahmed Nagy on Saturday of charges of publishing and writing an article with “obscene sexual content”.
Nagy’s case was controversial and sparked outcry from human rights organisations, who took it to be a violation of freedom of expression. The Egyptian Journalism Syndicate has also rejected it.
Nagy published a chapter of his novel, “The Use of Life”, in Akhbar El-Adab after it had been published by Dar El-Tanweer publishing house. He was referred to a criminal court in November where the prosecution said the published content “violates the sanctity of public morals and general ethics”.
The institution of Academic Freedom and Student Rights (AFTE) released a statement Sunday that the acquittal was a beacon of hope for those fighting for freedom of expression and those wanting artistic expression to operate in framework that did not adhere to conservative values.
The statement added that those who fight against freedom of expression do so because of their desires to impose an authoritarian repressive rule that fears the messianic role of art and creativity. It emphasised that art enriches the development of peoples and nations and of thinking, imagination, and the emancipation of minds.
The verdict is considered a victory to free thinking and the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed in the 2014 constitution, the statement said.
According to the statement, AFTE confirms that the acquittal of Nagy and Tarek El- Taher, the editor in chief of Akhbar Al-Adab, a literary journal affiliated with Akhbar Al-Youm, is an affirmation of Article 67 of the Egyptian constitution which protects the right of creativity and freedom of expression.
The statement described the allegation of “offending public morals” as a vague charge that carries no legal definition as to what those morals are or what an offense constitutes.
AFTE stressed that culture establishments were operating in a hostile environment that necessitated a collective effort to support freedom of expression. Recently, several Cairo cultural institutions have been shut down by the government such as the Townhouse Gallery, Rawabet Theatre, and Merit Publishing House.
The statement said that while AFTE strongly welcomes the verdict, it considers it merely a first step in fostering an atmosphere that encourages freedom of expression.