When Islamists won a large majority in Egypt's first post-revolution parliamentary election, many artists feared for the future of artistic freedom in the country.
It seems these fears were justified after Egyptian comedy actor Adel Imam was sentenced Tuesday to three months in jail with hard labour and fined LE1000 for "defaming" Islam in his films Morgan Ahmed Morgan, El-Erhaby ('The Terrorist') and El-Erhab Wel-Kabab ('Terrorism and Kebab'). Judge Mohamed Abdel Aty issued the sentence on Tuesday.
Imam's fellow thespians have blasted the verdict.
"The best you could do to an artist [you don’t approve of] is not watch him, but you don’t have the right to prevent him from working or jailing him," said Egyptian actor Amr Waked on Twitter.
Independent filmmaker Ahmad Abdallah said described the sentence was an "act of terrorism against artists" and a "slap in the face for serious cinema."
Writer Alaa El-Aswany wrote on Twitter that he did not agree with Adel Imam politically, but nevertheless appreciated his art. He condemned the sentence, saying Egypt was returning to the dark ages.
The Front for Creativity has organised a protest on 26 May at 11am outside the Agouza Court on Cairo's Sudan Street. The protest will be held in conjunction with the trial of directors Sherif Arafa, Nader Galal and Mohamed Fadel and writers Wahid Hamed and Lenin El-Ramly, all of whom face charges of "defaming" Islam.
Egyptian Actors Syndicate head Ashraf Abdel Ghaffour said the syndicate would not remain silent on the issue, stressing that the syndicate’s lawyers would appeal the conviction.
The case against Imam, who was first charged with the offence in February, was filed by Asran Mansour, who accused the actor of offending Islam and its symbols, including the Hiljab – a loose fitting garment worn by some Muslims – and beards in his films.
Known across the Arab world, Imam is considered Egypt’s biggest and best-known film star, with 40 years of box office hits and plays under his belt.