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Egyptian comedian sentenced to jail for offending Islam

Egyptian veteran comedian Adel Imam.

CAIRO --One of the Arab world's best-known comedians was sentenced to three months in jail for offending Islam on Thursday, just weeks after Islamist parties won a majority in parliament.

A judge, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, told The Associated Press that Adel Imam was convicted in absentia of "defaming Islam." His whereabouts were unknown, the AP reported.

A lawyer with ties to Islamist groups, Asran Mansour, brought the case, judicial sources told The Guardian.

"I think the lawyer who filed the case against Imam is taking advantage of the current circumstances with Islamists gaining power in Egypt," Nabil Abdel Fattah, an analyst and researcher at al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, told the newspaper.

The sentence, which he thought would probably be overturned on appeal, had likely been handed down because the actor had failed to go to court, according to the newspaper. He said the sentence had likely been handed down because Imam had failed to appear in court, the Guardian reported.

At least 74 people were killed and hundreds more injured when rival soccer fans in Egypt rioted after a match. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports from Cairo.

The state-run Ahram Online English website reported he was found guilty for a 2007 movie in which he plays a corrupt businessman and a 1998 play about an Arab dictator. Other reports said the court objected to his use of Islamic symbols.

Chaotic scenes as injured soccer fans return to Cairo after riot

In the 1980's, Imam was sentenced to three months in jail for defaming lawyers in a film. That ruling was later overturned.

Msnbc.com and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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