A court found Egypt’s most popular comic actor guilty on Tuesday of insulting Islam in roles in films mocking religious hypocrisy, alarming liberal-minded artists and intellectuals already anxious about the growing power of Islamists here after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
The court fined the actor Adel Imam about $170 and gave him a suspended sentence. Mr. Imam is expected to appeal. Although laws criminalizing insults to Islam or Christianity have been on the books for years, convictions have been relatively rare, especially in the context of popular movies.
Mr. Imam was convicted for performances in the blockbuster films “The Terrorist,” in which he plays a radical Islamist hiding among a moderate, middle-class family, and “Terrorism and Kabab,” in which his character becomes enraged at a lazy civil servant pretending to pray to avoid work.
Mr. Imam’s films routinely use humor to skewer many layers of society.
Heba Morayef, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, said the case was one of several similar ones since Mr. Mubarak’s ouster. “We are seeing a growing number of convictions,” she said, calling it “very, very frightening, if this is considered normal.”
The case took place against a backdrop of growing uncertainty within the Egyptian government. The dominant Islamist party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, has pledged to respect artistic freedom.
But a group of more conservative Islamists, known as Salafis, won about a quarter of the seats in recent parliamentary elections. The Salafis usually frown on most commercial entertainment, and a Salafi lawyer brought the complaint against Mr. Imam.
A complication for Mr. Imam is that he was considered a Mubarak friend.