Actor Ahmed Ezz was convicted of defamation and sentenced to three years in prison in absentia after he refused to acknowledge paternity of children he fathered with fellow actress Zeina. The court also fined Ezz LE15,000 and ordered him to pay LE20,000 in compensation, reported the privately owned Al-Watan newspaper.
Zeina sued Ezz for defamation after he repeatedly denied that her twin boys were his children, despite a court ruling to the contrary. Ezz and Zeina were reportedly wed in a customary (urfi) marriage before she gave birth to the twins.
“I swear to God, they are not my kids,” Ezz tweeted in January, after a court ruling was issued in June 2015 stating that Ezz was the father, a statement was widely mocked on social media. The case has been widely publicized, with Zeina gaining a fair amount of public sympathy.
Ezz also refused to provide a DNA sample to prove that the children were not his. He accused Zeina of forging birth certificates for the children, Ezz Eddin and Zein Eddin, and continues to deny that he is the father. He has filed an appeal against the June court ruling.
Egypt does not have a provision requiring men to submit DNA samples in paternity cases, often resulting in long drawn-out battles over child parentage.
However, observers have noted that the case marks a shift in public opinion regarding paternity cases.
Dalia Abdel Hameed, gender officer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, noted in a previous article for Mada Masr that public sympathy with Zeina and condemnation of Ezz is markedly different than in a similar and widely publicized paternity case in 2004, in which designer Hind al-Hinnawy filed a paternity suit against actor Ahmed al-Fishawy.
Although a court ultimately ruled in Hinnawy’s favor, she was accused of defaming Fishawy and faced widespread public criticism.
Ezz is an actor well-known for his role in the 2002 film Mozakarat Morahqa (Memoirs of a Teenager). He also recently appeared in the popular action blockbuster Awlad Rizk (The Sons of Rizk) in 2015.
Zeina is currently starring in a Ramadan TV series somewhat ironically titled Azmit Nasab (Crisis of Lineage), where she plays a maid who is pregnant with the child of a married businessman.