One of Egypt’s best-known actors has been told that he has been sentenced to eight years in jail in his absence for criticising the regime of President Sisi.
Amr Waked, best known in Britain for playing the wealthy sheikh at the heart of the romantic drama Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, is a noted critic of military rule in his home country.
He said that “people close to the military prosecution services” had told him that he had been sentenced to consecutive five and three-year terms “on charges of publishing fake news and insulting state institutions”.
Waked, 45, said that the authorities refused to give him an official notification of the two sentences because “they had not yet been ratified”.
He said he was convicted of spreading “fake news” and “insulting” the state. Despite the threats, Waked said he’ll continue to be critical of the government: “I can’t stay silent about this.”
The 45-year-old Egyptian actor, who is known for his roles in Syriana, Lucy and the Netflix series Marco Polo, currently lives in Europe and is a well-known critic of Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s government.
During a visit to the Egyptian Embassy in Madrid, Waked said he was unofficially informed that military courts handed down two rulings against him on charges of “spreading fake news” and “slandering state institutions.” The two sentences amount to an eight-year prison sentence.
“I haven’t been able to examine any documents or copies of these judgments,” Waked said. “But the authorities could immediately arrest me if I were to return to Egypt.”
According to Waked, he also received an official notice during his visit to the embassy that he said he believes was a threat from the Egyptian government.
The notice informs Waked that he can only renew his Egyptian passport if he personally returns to Egypt for the process.
Waked’s lawyer in Egypt, Malek Adly, told DW that he is trying to obtain the two decisions from the military courts.
While Waked has sharply criticized the court decisions, a retired Egyptian intelligence official said that he understood why Egypt took legal action against the actor.
“This is not the first time that Amr Waked has made a public statement in this way. He has been warned before,” Mohamed Rashad said.
Waked first discussed the cases against him earlier this week on social media, which was then picked up by US media and government-critical media in Egypt.
In the past, he’s frequently voiced his criticism of el-Sissi and the Egyptian government on Twitter, where he has over 6.5 million followers.
He recently sparked controversy in Egypt for criticizing the death sentences for several men who were convicted over the assassination of Egypt’s top prosecutor in 2015.
Rights group Amnesty International also criticized the death sentences, saying that it is not permissible to judge people on the basis of confessions made under torture.
Waked has been living primarily in France and Spain since 2017. He rose to worldwide fame after staring alongside George Clooney in the 2005 political thriller Syriana. In 2013, he won the best actor award at the Dubai Film Festival for his role in Winter Discontent, a film about the Egyptian revolution.