A Cairo court on Tuesday upheld the sentencing of Adel Imam, the Arab world’s most famous actor, to three months in jail for “defaming Islam” in several roles on stage and screen, a judicial source said.
The Egyptian actor, who is also a UN goodwill ambassador was originally convicted in absentia in February, after being sued by Asran Mansur, a lawyer with Islamist ties.
Imam told AFP on Tuesday that he would appeal the verdict, and remained free on bail.
“Many people support me,” he said, while declining to comment further.
The 71-year-old celebrity, described as the Arab world’s Charlie Chaplin, has a long history of legal tangles with Islamists who regard the actor’s work as blasphemous.
In the latest case, Imam said the works criticised are the 1994 movie “Al-Irhabi” (The Terrorist), in which he portrays an Islamic fundamentalist and the play “Al-Zaeem” (The Leader), a comedy in which Imam pokes fun at the region’s autocratic leaders.
“All the works in which I have starred went through the censors. Had they been found to be defamatory, the censors would have banned them,” Imam said.
He has acted in more than 100 films, including the award-winning “The Yacoubian Building” from Alaa al-Aswani’s novel, and 10 plays praised by the Arab public for their irreverence towards both the powerful and the religious.
In a 1998 TV debate, called “Star on a Hot Tin Roof”, Imam squared off with three Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement whose members now hold a strong majority in Egypt’s parliament.
Since 2000, Imam has served as a goodwill ambassador for the UN refugee agency, alongside likes of film star Angelina Jolie and Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani.