CAIRO – An Egyptian court sentenced an ultraconservative former lawmaker and cleric to a year in prison for public indecency on Saturday, after police said they found him fondling a woman on his lap in a parked car at night.
Police have said in a report that the man was touching and caressing the fully-veiled woman when they approached him while parked alongside an agricultural road outside Cairo last month.
Ali Wanees has denied the charges. He claimed that he pulled the car over to assist his ill niece, but police say he is not her uncle.
The court also sentenced him to six months prison for contempt of police. The police report claims Wanees called the officers "sons of dogs" when they knocked on his window asking to see his license and registration.
The ultraconservative cleric's whereabouts are unknown. He was tried in absentia and is allowed a retrial. The court sentenced the woman he was with — who has been in custody for about a month — to six months in jail. She also has the right to appeal.
Known as a sheik for his role as a religious scholar, Wanees once sat in parliament as part of a Salafi-led coalition headed by the Nour Party, which won 25 percent of seats in the lower house before it was dissolved late last month.
The case against him is especially embarrassing for Salafis, who advocate the segregation of unrelated men and women. Salafis are known for a no-compromise, literal interpretation of the faith and typically grow long, moustache-less beards.
Earlier in the year, the Nour Party was forced to issue an embarrassing and apologetic statement after one of their lawmakers was reported to have lied to cover up a nose job, claiming that he sustained injuries to his heavily bandaged face from a carjacking and beating. He was kicked out of the party and resigned from parliament.