Cairo: The most famous comic actor in the Arab world, Egypt’s Adel Imam, has been acquitted from the charges of insulting Islam in his films and plays.
According to a state newspaper, he had a conviction and three-month prison sentence after being found guilty of the charges of making mockery of Islam, however, his conviction and punishment have been overturned on appeal.
Adel Imam appealed in a crime court and the court listened to the stance of the actor. The court found him innocent of the charges and overruled the verdict of his conviction and sentence that was announced in February this year. The court cited that there was “absence of a crime,” however, court ordered Imam to pay attorney fees and other legal costs. The lawyer of the actor and court officials could not be contacted for comments on the successful appeal.
Before the final day of the appeal, hundreds of Imam’s supporters gathered in front of the court and chanted slogans in his favor. The demonstrators included actors, producers, directors and personalities of showbiz and they chanted, "We want freedom of creativity" and "No to prosecuting creative artists."
An actress, Jihan Fadel, commented, "This is an unjust case against Imam and a stifling of freedom of expression." She continued, “If Imam's appeal is not accepted, this will pave the way for more obstacles in the path of all creative people in Egypt." The supporters of the actor were carrying placards saying "Art is not heresy."
"The revolution was fought for freedom of expression and to see a case like this is a disgrace," this was said by one of Imam's supporters, Magy Morgan, outside the court.
However, some argument was also witnessed outside the court between Imam’s supporters and his opponents. Some passers-by shouted “Jail Imam” while his other opponents had a view that Imam has always been the enemy of Islam.
A lawyer, Asran Mansour, brought the case against Imam saying that he insults Islam in his acts. The lawyer is believed to have strong relations with Islamic groups.
Imam was accused by the lawyer that he had insulted Islam and its symbols including beard and galabiya, a loose-fitting garment often worn by hardliner Islamists. Galabiya is not only worn by the Muslims but Christians too as it is a traditional dress in rural areas of Egypt.
The actor had been convicted with guilty of charges a few weeks after Islamic groups won majority of seats in parliament.
Mansour targeted the films and plays of Imam including "Morgan Ahmed Morgan" and "Al Zaeem" in which he allegedly insulted Islam and its symbols.
The artistic career of Adel Imam, 71, prevails over 40 years during which he has poked fun at officials in his comedies and politicians of all colors. His presence in any movie or theatre cast virtually guarantees a box-office hit.
Many Egyptians had criticized him publicly for not supporting the protests against former President Hosni Mubarak. He has also appeared in serious films dealing with the rise of Islamic militancy.
The liberals and leftists in Egypt are bothering about the dominance of Islamic groups in politics of Egypt after Mubarak’s ouster as they fear that the Islamists will suffocate social and cultural freedom in the country.