Egypt courts punish singers for 'insults' and 'debauchery'

CAIRO -- Egyptian courts have sentenced two singers to prison time for seemingly tame behaviour deemed threatening to society in a country growing increasingly repressive on all fronts.

One, the famous singer Sherine Abdel-Wahab, was given six months over a joke suggesting that the Nile River is polluted, which prosecutors used to accuse her of insulting the state. A fan had asked her to sing one of her popular songs referring to drinking from the river, Egypt's lifeline, to which she playfully suggested that it's safer to drink bottled water.

The other, little-known Laila Amer, was sentenced to two years for inciting "debauchery and immorality" with a music video in which she plays a downtrodden but belly-dancing housewife complaining to her husband about his bossy mother. The name of the song, "Bos Omak," is a play on words with a popular Arabic profanity.

The charges, while not uncommon in matters of morality in conservative Egypt, come at a time when free speech in general is under assault by authorities and tolerance for different opinions seems to be reaching an all-time low ahead of next month's presidential election, in which President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is set to win after other potential candidates were forced out of the race.

"Fundamentally this is a conservative regime that seeks in part to ground its legitimacy in its ability to defend the country's 'moral code,"' said Timothy Kaldas of the U.S.-based Tahrir Institute. "It reflects a long-term effort to demonstrate it's no less committed to morality than the Islamists it has displaced." Read more via CTV News

Egypt: Two Singers Sentenced to Imprisonment 

 Law No. 58 of 1937 on the Penal Code, Manshurat website. Article 80(d) states that whoever deliberately spreads false information or rumors abroad about the internal conditions of the country that might weaken the country’s financial credibility or harm the country’s national interests is punishable by six months to five years’ imprisonment and a fine. The court also found a second singer, Laila Amer, guilty of inciting debauchery, which violates article 1 of Law No. 10 of 1961 on Combating Prostitution. Law No. 10 of 1961 on Combating Prostitution, art. 1.) Article 1(a) stipulates that whoever incites a person—male or female—to engage in debauchery or prostitution, or assists in or facilitates it, and similarly whoever employs a person or tempts him or induces him with the intention of engaging in debauchery or prostitution, is punishable by imprisonment for one to three years and a fine.

Read more about the ruling via Library of Congress