A court in Egypt has given one of the most famous comic actors in the Arab world, Adel Imam, a jail sentence for insulting Islam. The actor is due to appeal the decision.
"Adel Imam will appeal to annul the verdict, which was given on the wrong legal basis," Imam’s lawyer Sawat Hussein says. "My client's films were certified, not censored, by surveillance authorities before their release to the public."
The court first convicted the actor on February 2 giving him a suspended jail term and a fine of about $170. The sentence was upheld on Tuesday.
Imam’s case caused massive public resonance. Hundreds of people, including actors and filmmakers gathered in front of the court building on Tuesday to support Imam, The Vancouver Sun reports.
Protesters fear that if Imam’s appeal is not accepted, that might prompt future troubles for other creative people of Egypt now that the power of Islamists is growing after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. Creative community believes that Imam’s case might become an alarming sign of the upcoming limitations to freedom of expression in the country.
The case against the famous comic was brought by a lawyer closely related to the conservative Islamists of Egypt – the Salafis (who won about a quarter of the seats in recent parliamentary elections). The lawyer accused Imam of insulting Islamic symbols.
Filmmakers, actors and artists are often brought to court for disrespecting religious values in Egypt. They seldom resulted in convictions. However since Mubarak’s ousting the number of convictions has been growing, according to Human Rights Watch.
Adel Imam has been in the film business and on stage as a comic actor for 40 years, known for frequently bantering authorities and officials.