Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Adel Imam vows to appeal conviction | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – An Egyptian court, presided over by Judge Mohamed Abdul-Atty, yesterday upheld the conviction of Adel Imam, one of the Arab world’s most famous comedic actors, on charges of insulting Islam, sentencing him to three months imprisonment. Egyptian actor Adel Imam was accused of portraying Islamic figures in his films negatively, particularly in films like “Morgan Ahmed Morgan”, “The Terrorist”, “The Embassy in the Building” and “Hassan and Marcous”.

The Egyptian film star told Asharq Al-Awsat that he intends to appeal the ruling against him, adding that he is “confident in the integrity of the Egyptian judiciary.” Adel Imam also revealed that the judge – who previously tried and convicted him in absentia – was the same judge who lately upheld this conviction. Imam called on all media figures, writers and artists to stand with him in defense of creative freedoms.

Artistic and creative circles within Egypt responded to this ruling with dismay and anger, fearing that this conviction could create a state of fear and uncertainty within the Egyptian creative and entertainment scene. Egyptian intellectuals have viewed this court case as an indication that the state intends to clamp down on creative freedoms and freedom of expression, particularly in light of the turbulent political climate that exists in the country as well as recent statements issued by some hardline Islamist trends.

This ruling was viewed as a harsh judgment against a man who remains, at 71-years of age, one of Egypt’s and the Arab world’s most popular stars. Many have claimed that this ruling is irrational, particularly as the case focuses on examples where Adel Imam lampooned Islamist terrorists, who themselves are contravening the legitimate teachings of Islam, rather than the religion of Islam itself.

Commenting on this decision, Lawyer Khalid Abu Bakr stressed that it is open to appeal, and that it represents a brick wall in the face of creativity and freedom, particularly as Adel Imam is an Egyptian and Arab symbol in this regard. Abu Bakr expressed his disappointment in the Egyptian court’s ruling, declaring his whole-hearted support for Adel Imam, adding that the state must ensure that the current political climate is not used as a pretext to clamp down on creative freedoms. The Egyptian lawyer also stressed that this case has been blown completely out of proportion by certain hardline Islamist groups.

The case against Adel Imam was first raised in early February by Salafist lawyer Asran Mansour who accused the Egyptian actor of insulting Islam and its symbols in his films and plays. Imam was tried and convicted in absentia, being sentenced to 3 months imprisonment and a fine of 1,000 EGP [Egyptian Pounds]. Imam was granted a retrial, since the first trial was conducted in absentia; his lawyers argued that the films and plays cited in this case did not constitute an insult to the religion of Islam, particularly as they had been licensed by the Egyptian government and reviewed and passed by the Egyptian certification board.

This is not Adel Imam’s first brush with the law; he was previously convicted of insulting the judiciary in 1982 and sentenced to one year imprisonment for his film “The Avocado”, along with writer and director Raafat Al Mihi. The ruling was later overturned on appeal after Adel Imam reconciled with Judge Mortada Mansour, issuing a public apology which appeared on the front-page of all national newspapers.