Famous Singer Sentenced to Jail for Insulting River

2nd Egyptian singer sentenced to jail time over a music video
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2018 11:10 AM CST
Famous Singer Sentenced to Jail for Insulting River
Egyptian security officers guard a courthouse in Cairo on Nov. 8, 2017.   (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

To ancient Egyptians, the Nile River was the lifeblood of civilization. It's apparently no less dear to modern Egyptians, as a well-known pop singer has learned the hard way. Sherine Abdel-Wahab—described by the BBC as one of Egypt's most famous singers and a judge on the Arabic version of The Voice—was sentenced to six months in prison Tuesday for speaking ill of the Nile. During a concert in the United Arab Emirates in 2016, a fan had asked Abdel-Wahab to sing a song about drinking from the river, with the singer replying, "No, you'd get bilharzia. Drink Evian, it's better!" per Deutsche Welle. Bilharzia is a parasitic disease affecting water sources in Egypt, with evidence of it appearing in mummified remains dating back millennia. Though Abdel-Wahab later apologized for the "foolish joke," outrage spread with footage of the comment.

In November, a lawyer filed a lawsuit accusing Abdel-Wahab of disparaging Egypt and damaging its tourism industry. On Tuesday, a Cairo court found her guilty of spreading "false news," though she remains free with an appeal possible. Also Tuesday, singer Laila Amer was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of "inciting debauchery and immorality," stemming from a controversial music video, whose director and fellow actor received six-month and three-month sentences, respectively. In a similar case, singer Shaimaa Ahmed was sentenced to two years in prison in December over a racy music video that showed her dancing in underwear and eating a banana. Reporting on the cases, the AP notes Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi "has ushered in the country's fiercest crackdown on dissent and freedoms in its modern history." (More Egypt stories.)

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