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Egypt bans singer from performing over free-speech remarks

Wednesday 27 March 2019, by siawi3


Egypt bans singer from performing over free-speech remarks

Sherine Abdel-Wahab said during show that anyone who talks in Egypt is imprisoned

Associated Press in Cairo

Sat 23 Mar 2019 14.55 GMT
Last modified on Sat 23 Mar 2019 18.01 GMT

Sherine Abdel-Wahab performs in Cairo on New Year’s Eve. Photograph: Mahmoud Abdel Nasser/AP

An Egyptian singer has been banned from performing in her home country after she suggested it does not respect free speech.

An online video clip shows Sherine Abdel-Wahab saying during a performance in Bahrain: “Here I can say whatever I want. In Egypt, anyone who talks gets imprisoned.”

Egypt’s Musicians Union responded late on Friday by barring the singer, popularly known by her first name, from performing. It also summoned her for questioning.

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Samir Sabry, a pro-government lawyer with a reputation for moral vigilantism and suing celebrities, filed a complaint against the singer accusing her of “insulting Egypt and inviting suspicious rights groups to interfere in Egypt’s affairs”.

Last year, Sherine was sentenced to six months in prison over a similar clip from a concert in which she joked that the Nile was polluted. The sentence was suspended upon appeal. She apologised for the remark, calling it a “bad joke”.

Sherine, who hosts the Arabic version of The Voice, apologised for the latest remarks in a TV interview aired late on Friday, saying she was joking.

“I am very tired. I made a mistake. I am sorry. I appeal to the president of the Arab Republic of Egypt, who is our father. I feel that I was persecuted. I did nothing. I love Egypt,” she said.

Egyptian authorities have cracked down on dissent since President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi led the military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013. The media is dominated by pro-government outlets which attack anyone seen as criticising the country or its leaders, and several people have been jailed or fined for violating vaguely written laws outlawing such criticism.

Thousands of people have been jailed or forced to leave the country since Sisi came to power, mainly Islamists but also a large number of secular activists, politicians and artists.