Adel Imam, Egyptian actor and comic, sentenced on charges of insulting Islam

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

An Egyptian court today upheld the three-month sentencing of Arab comedian Adel Imam on charges of offending Islam in a landmark freedom of speech case seen as a test of Egypt's democratic aspirations, according to the Associated Press

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

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The ruling adds to growing concerns over the agenda being advanced by Egypt's new leadership following last year's ousting of longtime President Hosni Mubarak, with prominent Egyptian author Alaa al-Aswany slamming the decision as a throwback to the "darkness of the Middle Ages," said AP.

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

The 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 and a promised re-trial, which was held today in Cairo, 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 played a leading role in the 2006 film adaption of Alaa al-Aswany's popular novel "The Yacoubian Building." 

Imam  remains free on bail, said AFP. He did not appear in court today, according to AP