File Photo: Pop Singer Sherine Abdel-Wahab as a judge on the Arabic version of The Voice program (Photo: The Voice)
A south Cairo court sentenced in absentia on Tuesday Egyptian pop singer Sherine Abdel-Wahab to six months in prison for "offending Egypt" over statements she made in August 2016 about the existence of the Bilharzia parasite in the Nile.
The court has ordered Sherine to pay EGP 5,000 bail pending the completion of the appeals process, as well as a fine of EGP 10,000, nearly three months after she was referred to court for spreading false news over her remarks about the Nile.
The pop singer did not attend the court session, and can still appeal the sentence.
In August 2016, a fan asked the 37-year-old Sherine during a concert in Lebanon to perform her popular 2007 song 'Mashrebtesh Men Nilha' (Have you not drunk from its Nile?), which extols Egypt's beauty, to which the singer jokingly responded “You will get Bilharzia if you do," adding that fan would be better off drinking the mineral water brand Evian.
A video of the incident surfaced online and went viral on social media networks in Egypt, sparking controversy and anger from some fans.
The Bilharzia disease is caused by water-borne parasites living in ponds and closed streams, and targets blood capillaries and damages the liver and other organs. The disease had in past decades afflicted many across the Egyptian countryside, where people used water from small branches of the Nile for bathing and swimming.
However, after years of aggressively combating the disease through national health and media campaigns, the government successfully reduced the once high infection rate from 40 percent in the Egyptian countryside in the 1980s down to 0.2 percent today, according to Egypt's Ministry of Health.
The prominent singer, known also for several patriotic sings, was banned by the country's musicians syndicate from singing in Egypt.
Sherine issued a lengthy apology on her Facebook page, saying the comment was naive and unintentional, adding that she had forgotten about the incident and was surprised to see the clip.
“My beloved Egypt and Egyptians, I am sorry with all my heart for any pain or offence I’ve caused any of you, and God knows how much I love this country and am dedicated to it… I promise to be more wary in the future of any naive mistakes that could put me in such a regretful position,” she said.