The law can be a peculiar thing; its application, even more so. Every country seems to have its fair share of peculiar and often outdated laws, and Egypt is no exception. The recent high-profile sentencing of Egypt’s iconic Sherine Abdel Wahab is just the latest in a list of peculiar applications of the law, yet bizarre criminal incidents are not new. As such, we thought to create a round-up of some of the strangest incidents.
Most recently, pop star Laila Amer was sentenced to two years in prison for ‘inciting debauchery and immorality’ in her music video bearing a play on an Arabic profanity. The video shows her gesturing to a man watching a belly dancer on television, and then being trapped between the man and an older woman as she tries to cook and do laundry. The older woman is assumed to be her mother.
At the end of February this year Egyptian singer Sherine Abdel Wahab was sentenced to six months in prison for suggesting that a fan should not drink from the River Nile. The ‘false news’ that she was spreading claimed that drinking from Egypt’s famous river could result in schistosomiasis, a disease caused by a parasitic freshwater worm in subtropical and tropic regions. “Drink Evian instead”, she asserted. This mischief developed from an online video showing the famous musician being asked to sing “Mashrebtesh Men Nilha” (Have You Drunk From the Nile?).
The aforesaid incident came shortly after singer Shyma was sentenced to two years in prison, again for ‘inciting debauchery and immorality’. The act in question was no other than suggestively eating a banana in a music video.
It seems, however, that foreigners do not always escape the law, either. In 2013 a British traveller in Sinai was reported to the authorities for speaking to local people in a café, and subsequently arrested for possessing clothes similar to those worn by the security forces. According to the prosecution services’ statement, he was found to have “suspect trousers, a black jacket, and two pairs of shoes they suspect to belong to the central security”. The man was subsequently released. The incident came a year after an infamous public information television campaign warning of stranger danger. It showed friendly Egyptians chatting to a foreigner, who then sent a text message.
In addition, British nationals have been arrested for photographing electricity stations, train stations, and bridges. This may become more understandable when we realise that it is actually illegal in Egypt to use binoculars or take photographs near an airport.
One of the most peculiar incidents, however, occurred in 2016 when Ahmed Mansour Karni, aged one, was sentenced to life in prison for committing murder. He was convicted of committing four murders, eight counts of attempted murder, vandalising property, and threatening soldiers and police officers. His name had been added to the list of 115 defendants handed life sentences at a western Cairo court accidentally.
While the charges are true, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said that this was a ‘mistake’. The court should have sentenced someone else to prison who happened to have a similar name, according to MoI.