Rights advocates slam court ruling against comedian

Rights activists slammed a court ruling sentencing prominent Egyptian comedian Adel Imam to prison on charges that he insulted Islam, saying that the verdict might put tourism and investments in a negative light.

Haram misdemeanor court sentenced Imam Tuesday to three months in jail and fined him LE100.

Imam was convicted in February of contempt of religion, which is criminalized under Article 98(f) of the Egyptian penal code. Imam appealed the verdict the same month.

Bahey el-din Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, said the verdict caused a shock to the whole world, not only Egyptians. He said the verdict might be the start of a series of religiously-driven lawsuits against artists and intellectuals that are the byproduct of some people's limited understanding of religion. He described the development as a new form of human rights violations.

Hassan called for new legislation protecting artists and intellectuals from such lawsuits, but said that his hope might not materialize soon, since the convictions behind Imam's sentence are in line with the mentality of Parliament's Islamist majority.

Meanwhile, rights activist Nejad al-Buraie said Islamist politicians have waged their war against the freedom of expression. He noted that the ruling against Imam coincides with other Parliament calls for more scrutiny on websites and artwork.

Edited Translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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