x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Egyptian actor to appeal jail term for insulting Islam

A court found Adel Imam, one of the Arab world's most famous comic actors, guilty of defaming Islam on February 2 and sentenced him to three months in jail.

CAIRO // One of the Arab world's most famous comic actors, Adel Imam, will appeal a decision by an Egyptian court to sentence him to three months in jail for insulting Islam in his films and plays, his lawyer said yesterday.

A court found Imam guilty of defaming Islam on February 2 and fined him 1,000 Egyptian pounds (Dh600) in absentia. Imam frequently poked fun at authorities and politicians during a 40-year career, and his more serious films have dealt with the rise of Islamist militancy. A court upheld the February sentence on Tuesday, but Imam can still appeal.

The timing of his case - at a time when Islamists are in the political ascendancy - has raised fears that Salafists, who asserted themselves in recent parliamentary elections, were trying to force their views on society.

"Mr Adel Imam will appeal to annul the verdict, which was given on the wrong legal basis," said his lawyer, Sawat Hussein. "My client's films were certified, not censored, by surveillance authorities before their release to the public."

The case against Imam was brought by a lawyer with ties to Islamist groups. Asran Mansour accused the actor of offending Islam and its symbols, including beards and dress, the Egyptian news portal Ahramonline reported.

Among the films and plays targeted by the lawyer was the movie Morgan Ahmed Morgan and the play Al-Zaeem (The Leader), the report said.

Court cases against directors, actors, artists and intellectuals accused of failing to respect religious authority are relatively common in Egypt.

Egypt's most successful film star, Imam has driven box-office sales for much of his career.

Should his appeal be rejected, Imam would have to serve the sentence.