Lebanese comedian Edmund Hedded may gain fame for becoming the first man in his country to be prosecuted for showing his underwear as he awaits a verdict on May 30.
Fellow comedian, Rawya el Chab, faces the same fate as well.
The story date back to December 23, 2009, when the two comedians organized a fundraising event by Lebanese association Brave Heart for children with congenital heart disease.
The event featured an “auction” of bachelors.
Hedded was one of the bachelors and while on stage, he lowered his trousers to show a flash of his underwear as he told jokes to an entertained audience.
Journalists, including Al Arabiya reporters, were present at the event.
A few days later, the Al Arabiya bureau in Beirut received a request from Lebanese authorities asking for a copy of the video of the event.
Authorities had asked all media present at the event for their footage.
A few days later an article about the event was appeared in a local newspaper and featured a photo of Hedded showing a few centimeters of his underwear that had a Superman logo.
Both Hedded and Chab were called in for questioning and then arrested, charged in November 2010 of “frivolity, indecent act and language in public.”
Their penalty: one month in jail and a fine of 200,000 Lebanese pounds ($133) if convicted.
The two comedians appealed the verdict.
They were given their day in court on Wednesday when a hearing took place – but was adjourned until May 30 when the verdict will be announced.
No laughing matter
Hedded believes he is dealing with a “senseless matter”.
He said that he wanted to host a bachelor auction because they are popular in the West and aid in raising funds for charities.
He also said that during his contacts with many ministers and officials, one even confessed to participating in an auction 30 years ago.
The comedians have received support from activists and bloggers who turned to social media forums and called for supporters to gather in front of the courthouse on Wednesday, where their trial was being held, to denounce “the oppression of freedom of expression” in Lebanon.
Hedded, who raised $4,000 in 2009 for Brave Heart, questioned their absence in front of the courthouse where supporters had gathered.
Supporters denounced the trial and said that members of parliament use worse during their parliamentary sessions which are aired by local TV stations; adding that greater offenses have been committed by advertisers and writers of TV comedy shows.
Fears of clampdown
Activists and members of civil society have expressed fears of a clampdown on freedom of expression.
Earlier in the week, two graffiti artists, Ali Fakhry and Khoder Salameh, were arrested on Friday and released on Saturday, for public vandalism and disrupting Lebanon’s relationship with another state. The two activists had spray-painted art work in support of the Syrian uprising on Beirut’s walls of Beirut.
Protestors had also gathered outside the station where the two artists were being held, demanding their release.
In July 2011, the Lebanese singer Zeid Hamdan was taken into custody for several hours for his “General Suleiman” in which he asked President Michel Suleiman “to go home”.