Egyptian Film Star Being Sued for Criticizing Government

Courtesy of Ustura Films

A lawsuit has been filed accusing Khaled Abol Naga of "treason" for comments made in a video

Khaled Abol Naga, a popular Egyptian actor often referred to as the country’s answer to Brad Pitt, is in hot water for remarks made against the government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

In a video posted on Bawaba News on Saturday, Abol Naga — star of Egyptian films Villa 69, Microphone and Palestine’s entry to the next Academy Awards, Eyes of a Thief — was damning of the military regime that ousted president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

In quotes printed in The Cairo Post, the Unicef goodwill ambassador said that al-Sisi’s government would "take the country downhill," adding that if the president "cannot secure the country while preserving human rights, then he does not know how to deal with his position." He is believed to have been talking about the recent forced displacement of residents in the Sinai Peninsula.

A backlash soon followed among politicians and public figures loyal to the government, with the Post adding that several TV personalities had attacked Abol Naga’s reputation, one even calling his sexuality into question.

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Samir Sabry, a lawyer who has already filed several lawsuits against political activists, on Sunday said he was suing the actor for "treason" and, on his Twitter account, accused him of "inciting the overthrow of the regime."

In response, a group of 49 cinema industry figures on Monday released a statement supporting the freedom of expression of any Egyptian and demanding that Sabry lose his license.

The news highlights the ongoing struggle regarding free speech in Egypt, where three Al Jazeera journalists are currently imprisoned and in the summer noted TV satirist Bassem Youssef canceled his hugely popular The Daily Show-like show Al-Bernameg for fear of censorship and reprisals.

Earlier this month, a court sentenced Sanaa Seif, a young activists who worked as a shooter and editor on the Oscar-nominated doc The Square to three years in prison for protesting the anti-protest laws.