By HAMZA HENDAWI
CAIRO (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 on Monday, in a case suspected of serving as punishment for the actor’s vocal opposition to government policies.
The 45-year-old Waked was never detained over the alleged mid-September incident and did not attend the Saturday hearing in which the court announced its verdict, which can be appealed, the lawyer, Tareq Said, told The Associated Press.
Waked was released on a 1,000-pound ($60-dollar) bail and an appeal will be submitted on Tuesday, he added.
Waked 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 Oct. 28 verdict on his Facebook or Twitter accounts and has not replied to a message left for him by the AP requesting comment. 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 is reached. Most such 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 been critical of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a general-turned-president who in 2013 led the military’s ouster 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 Aug. 8 about the Egyptian media’s categorical support of el-Sissi.
The previous month, another tweet in Arabic by him was about the suppression of freedoms under 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 today’s Egypt are often punished either by calling their patriotism into question or exposing their alleged links to 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.
Said, Waked’s lawyer, told the court on Saturday that the charge against the actor was fabricated, but refused to say on Monday whether he thought it amounted to punishment for his client’s political views.
Still, he hinted that the case may be politically motivated.
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 with incredulous bemusement. “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 in U.S. cinemas on Oct. 20.
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