Sunday 25 February 2018

Geostorm actor convicted of damaging car in Egypt

Amr Waked at the first International El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt (AP)
Amr Waked at the first International El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt (AP)

An Egyptian court has convicted Geostorm actor Amr Waked for damaging a car parked outside his Cairo home, sentencing him to three months in prison, his lawyer said.

The case is suspected of serving as punishment for the actor's vocal opposition to government policies.

The 45-year-old was never detained over the mid-September incident and did not attend the hearing in which the court announced its verdict, which can be appealed against, according to lawyer Tareq Said.

Waked was released on bail of 1,000 Egyptian pounds (£43) and an appeal will be submitted on Tuesday, he added.

The actor has denied the charge and maintained he was framed by someone he did not identify, according to the lawyer.

He has made no mention of the verdict on his Facebook or Twitter accounts. His lawyer said he was filming abroad, but gave no details.

Cases of damage to property like cars or homes rarely go to court in Egypt, where the judiciary is overburdened and court cases often take years before a final ruling. Most cases end with an out-of-court settlement.

Using his star power, Waked was a vocal participant in the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak's 29-year authoritarian rule. He has also been critical of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a general-turned-president who in 2013 led the military's removal of Mohammed Morsi, a freely elected Islamist president whose one-year rule proved divisive.

"I can no longer bear the despicable practice of misleading and deceiving people so that a hateful person can rule," Waked tweeted in Arabic on August 8 about the Egyptian media's categorical support of Mr el-Sissi.

The previous month, another tweet in Arabic by him was about the suppression of freedoms under Mr el-Sissi. "Go on: Prohibit films, books and opinions and everything will be just fine in the dark, but only until light returns; and it always does."

Waked was an established movie star in his native Egypt before he started appearing in international box office hits such as Syriana, alongside George Clooney, and Salmon Fishing In The Yemen, alongside Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor.

He played a French policeman in the Luc Besson thriller Lucy alongside Scarlett Johansson.

Artists, authors or academics who dare speak out against government policy in Egypt are often punished either by calling their patriotism into question or exposing their alleged links to Mr Morsi's now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group.

Some are subjected to character assassination campaigns with reports of illicit sexual relations or contacts with foreign governments.

Mr Said told the court that the charge against the actor was fabricated, but refused to say whether he thought it amounted to punishment for his client's political views.

Recounting events the day of the alleged crime, he said the car parked outside Waked's rented house arrived with a driver and two passengers. The three young men walked to a nearby cafe, but only two later came back when they claimed they saw the actor and an unidentified women pelt the car with rocks.

"But they did not film them with their mobile phones, as everyone does these days in Egypt, or try to stop them," he told the court.

"They say many people saw the incident but they have produced no witnesses," he said, adding that the police's summoning of Waked for questioning was unusually swift for a case like that.

"They keep saying he belongs to the Brotherhood. He does not," he told the court.

Waked's latest role is in Geostorm, a sci-fi thriller starring Gerard Butler that opened on October 20.

AP

Press Association

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