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Belly dancer sentenced for insulting Egyptian flag

The famous belly dancer Safinaz was given a six-month prison sentence for wearing costume made out of the Egyptian flag's colours
A picture taken in 2013 shows Armenian belly dancer Safinaz performing at a wedding in Cairo (AFP)

An Egyptian court has sentenced a popular belly dancer to six months in prison on Monday for “insulting the Egyptian flag”.

Sofinar Gourian, better known as Safinaz, wore a dancing costume with the flag’s three colours during a performance last year in the Red Sea resort of Ain Sokhna.

The Armenian dancer was also fined $1,966 by the court in Agouza, west of Cairo. Safinaz avoided jail by paying $1,310 bail.

Police previously questioned Safinaz in March over the incident, and she was released on the same day after paying $2,620 bail.

The case was filed after a businesswoman and a hotel owner filed private complaints. The verdict can be appealed.

Speaking about the case in a news conference, Safinaz said that her costume was a “love letter” to the Egyptian people and that there was no intention to insult them.

Her defence lawyer argued in court that the dancer is a foreigner with no knowledge of the country’s laws and had no intention to insult the flag.

Under interim president Adly Mansour, who ruled for a year after former president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown in the summer of 2013, insulting the flag was made illegal by law.

The law, passed in June 2014, enforces jail terms and fines on anyone who “insults” the national flag. Such insults include raising, displaying or trading a flag if it is damaged, washed out, or not suitable for display in any other way. The law also forbids adding pictures, designs or logos to the flag.

Insulting the flag is punishable by law by up to a year in prison and a fine of $3,930.

The 38-year-old, who is married to an Egyptian and arrived in the country more than two years ago, has expressed her wish to spend the rest of her life in Egypt.

She has been an immediate success with belly dance lovers since her arrival in the country, with performances at prestigious weddings and roles in several Egyptian movies.