The Arab world's most famous comic actor, Adel Imam, has received a three-month jail sentence for insulting Islam in films and plays, a court document showed on Thursday.
Imam, who has frequently poked fun at authorities and politicians of all colors during a 40-year career, has one month to appeal the sentence and will remain out of jail until the appeal process is concluded.
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The sentence Wednesday evening came weeks after Islamists swept most seats in a parliamentary election. The case was brought by Asran Mansour, a lawyer with ties to Islamist groups, and had languished in court for months, judicial sources said.
Mansour accused the actor of offending Islam and its symbols, including beards and the Jilbab, a loose-fitting garment worn by some Muslims, the Egyptian news portal Ahramonline reported.
Prosecution exploiting Islamist power?
Among films and plays targeted by the lawyer were the movie "Morgan Ahmed Morgan" and the play "Al-Zaeem" ("The Leader"), the report said.
Imam was also handed a fine of 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($170) in absentia, the court document showed. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
Court cases against directors, actors, artists and intellectuals for failing to respect religious authority are common in Egypt. But the case against Imam is likely to draw attention due to his high profile and the timing of the verdict.
Egypt's most successful movie star, Imam has been a box-office sell-out for much of his career. His more serious films have dealt with the rise the Islamist militancy and taken aim at incompetent government officials.
"I think the lawyer who filed the case against Imam is taking advantage of the current circumstances with Islamists gaining power in Egypt," said Nabil Abdel Fattah, an analyst and researcher at al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.
He said the sentence had likely been handed down because Imam had failed to appear in court, and expected it to be overturned on appeal.
Egyptian telecom tycoon and political liberal Naguib Sawiris also faces trial on a charge of showing contempt for religion in a case brought by another Islamist lawyer. Sawiris, a prominent figure in Egypt's Coptic Christian community, was accused of showing contempt by tweeting a cartoon seen as insulting to Islam.
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