Egyptian belly dancer sentenced to 3 years in prison for ‘debauchery’
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Egyptian belly dancer sentenced to 3 years in prison for ‘debauchery’

Sama el-Masry charged over online videos that court said were posted with intention of committing ‘immorality’ and violated family values

Egyptian actress, belly dancer, television personality Sama El-Masry poses on the red carpet during the opening of the 38th Cairo International Film Festival at the Opera House in Egypt, November 15, 2016. (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)
Egyptian actress, belly dancer, television personality Sama El-Masry poses on the red carpet during the opening of the 38th Cairo International Film Festival at the Opera House in Egypt, November 15, 2016. (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)

An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced a high-profile belly dancer to three years in prison for inciting debauchery on social media.

Actress, singer and dancer Sama el-Masry, 42, was also fined 300,000 Egyptian pounds ($18,500). She denies the allegations and intends to appeal the decision.

Her sentencing came amid a crackdown by Egyptian authorities on social media, Reuters reported.

Cairo Misdemeanors Economic Court said el-Masry had violated Egyptian family principles and values and that she was using social media sites with the intention of committing “immorality.”

“There is a huge difference between freedom and debauchery,” said John Talaat, a member of parliament who had pushed for legal action against her and other women on TikTok, according to the report.

Female TikTok users and Instagram personalities have been arrested in Egypt in recent months on charges of promoting debauchery and prostitution on social media, the report said.

Taaat said they were expected to receive the same sentence as el-Masry.

El-Masry was arrested in April during an investigation into videos and photos posted on social media that prosecutors have denounced as sexually aggressive, Reuters reported.

The prosecutor-general’s office said it had received complaints about el-Masry, according to a report from Egypt Today. She claimed the images were taken from her phone that was stolen in June 2019.

El-Masry further claimed that members of the Muslim Brotherhood had reported her to authorities because she had mocked the group in 2012 when Mohamed Morsi, affiliated with the Brotherhood, was president of Egypt, the Egypt Today report said.

Under a 2018 cyber crime law Egyptian authorities can censor the internet and carry out surveillance of communications.

Egypt is one of several Islamic countries that enforce modest-dress laws in the Middle East.

Belly dancers have fallen foul of Egyptian authorities in the past. In 2015, dancer Reda al-Fouly was given a year in jail and two others sentenced over a music video she recorded that featured scantily clad dancing and shaking but no nudity.

The same year an Armenian belly dancer was sentenced to six months in jail for insulting Egypt’s national flag during a performance a year earlier.

Local activists have complained of an increasingly hostile environment for minority groups, gays and women, amid crackdowns on Islamist groups in the country, some of which are fighting an insurgency against the Egyptian regime.

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