Novelist Alaa al–Aswany says he is being sued in the Egyptian military court for “insulting the president, the Armed Forces, and judicial institutions”, sparking concern from his UK publisher Faber.
Aswany's Facebook page says the lawsuit is connect to columns he had written for German broadcaster and website Deutsche Welle Arabic and his last novel The Republic, As If. The novel which recounts the events of the 2011 revolution in Egypt, will be published in the UK by Faber in 2020, but is banned in Egypt itself.
Faber publisher Alex Bowler told The Bookseller: “As Alaa’s British publisher, we at Faber are gravely concerned by this news. We stand shoulder to shoulder with Alaa in the name of free speech and freedom of expression."
The author’s Facebook page reads: "Al Aswany, a civilian, faces military trial because of his writings and opinions. The case against him is a clear violation of article 65 of the Egyptian constitution, which states, 'Freedom of thought and opinion is guaranteed. All individuals have the right to express their opinion through speech, writing, imagery, or any other means of expression and publication.' The lawsuit is also a violation of article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Egypt is a signatory."
The lawsuit was filed against at the military General Prosecution Office, filed by Layer Ayman Mahfouz, according to Egypt Today, after Aswany, who is based in the US, wrote an opinion piece titled “Why don't we understand what the world understands?” for Deutsche Welle Arabic on 13th March. The Republic, As If has been condemned by Egyptian lawmakers for criticising the Muburak regime.
An Egyptian military official told the Associated Press, on the condition of anonymity, there are routine complaints against celebrities and when prosecutors decide to raise charges, they will make a statement.
Egyptian actor Amr Waked was recently sentenced to eight years in prison for “spreading false news and insulting state institutions,” according to Egyptian Streets.
Aswany has previously been published by Canongate in the UK. His novel The Yacoubian Building, published in 2007 in the UK by Harper Perennial, has sold 59,180 copies according to Nielsen BookScan.