Adel Imam, Egyptian actor and comic, given contrary court rulings


Egyptian actor and UN goodwill ambassador Adel Imam at a 2007 press conference.


Abdelhak Senna

An Egyptian court on Thursday dropped charges against Egyptian movie star Adel Imam accused of offending Islam, only days after a different court upheld a three-month sentence in a separate but similar case, reported The New York Times.

The confusion reflects the complexity of Egypt's judicial system as much as it does the importance of Adel Imam's case, billed a key test of freedom of speech there, according to the Associated Press

Imam, a towering figure in Arab cinema with a 40-year career, said he plans to appeal Tuesday's decision, reported Agence-France Press. The actor, who is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations, was also fined $170, said BBC

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The other court on Thursday dismissed Imam's case over “absence of a crime,” The New York Times quoted state media as reporting, noting that judicial officials in Egypt "have a high degree of discretion" in such cases.

Imam's case is one of a slew of new lawsuits with conservative undertones appearing in Egypt's courts, presumbably in response to the country's new Islamist-dominated parliament, according to AP

His case dates back to February, when Islamist-leaning lawyer Asran Mansur first pressed charged against the 71-year-old actor for roles he claimed made fun of Islam, resulting in an in absentia conviction upheld in Tuesday's hearing, said BBC

Mansur was reportedly especially incensed by the 1994 film "Al-Irhabi" (The Terrorist), in which Imam portrayed an Islamic terrorist on the run who ends up hiding with a moderate middle class family, said AP.  The accused actor, whom the New York Times described as "the Bob Hope of the Arab world," also played a leading role in the 2006 film adaption of Alaa al-Aswany's popular novel "The Yacoubian Building." 

Al-Aswany wrote on Twitter that Tuesday's decision takes Egypt “back to the darkness of the Middle Ages," according to ABC, criticism that was echoed by Amnesty International

The conflicting rulings come at a time of political confusion in Egypt, where there are growing concerns over the agenda being advanced by Egypt's new leadership following last year's ousting of longtime President Hosni Mubarak.

Imam remains free on bail, said AFP