CAIRO - The Arab world's most famous comic actor, Adel Imam, will appeal a decision by an Egyptian court to sentence him to three months in jail for insulting Islam in his films and plays, his lawyer told Reuters on Wednesday.
A court found Imam guilty of defaming Islam on February 2 and fined him 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($170) in absentia. Imam has frequently poked fun at the authorities and politicians during a 40-year career and his more serious films have dealt with the rise of Islamist militancy.
The timing of his case - at a time when Islamists are in the political ascendancy - and his high own profile has raised fears that ultraconservative Muslims, who swept parliamentary elections, are trying to force their views on society.
"Mr. Adel Imam will appeal to annul the verdict, which was given on the wrong legal basis," Sawat Hussein, his lawyer, told Reuters.
"My client's films were certified, not censored, by surveillance authorities before their release to the public."
The case against Imam was brought by a lawyer with ties to Islamist groups. Asran Mansour accused the actor of offending Islam and its symbols, including beards and the Jilbab, a loose-fitting garment worn by some Muslims, the Egyptian news portal Ahramonline reported.
Among films and plays targeted by the lawyer were the movie "Morgan Ahmed Morgan" and the play "Al-Zaeem" ("The Leader"), the report said.
Court cases against directors, actors, artists and intellectuals accused of failing to respect religious authority are relatively common in Egypt.
Egypt's most successful film star, Imam has been a box-office sell-out for much of his career.
Should his appeal be rejected, Imam would have to serve the sentence.
(Writing by Marwa Awad; Editing by Andrew Osborn)