File photo of Egypt-based Armenian belly dancer Safinaz

Cairo: An Egyptian court on Monday started the trial of the country’s most celebrated belly dancer, Safinaz, on charges of insulting the national flag in a performance.

Safinaz, an Armenian who has become a dancing sensation in Egypt in recent years, has denied the charges, saying she loves the country and did not mean to offend its people.

The case is related to Safinaz’ performance at a concert in July 2014 when she wore an outfit fashioned after the Egyptian flag.

Safinaz, 30, did not appear before the Cairo Misdemeanour Court on Monday.

A prosecution representative called on the court to impose tough sentence for the dancer for the act.

If convicted, Safinaz could be jailed for a year and pay Egyptian pound 30,000 in fine under a law issued last year.

The court adjourned the trial to April 6 to allow the dancer’s lawyer time to make his case and examine related documents.

Earlier this month, prosecutors released Safinaz on a bail of 20,000 Egyptian pound (about Dh10,000) after charging her with insulting the national flag.

In recent TV interviews, Safinaz, who is married to an Egyptian man, accused unnamed rivals of seeking to damage her reputation.

“It was a message of love to Egypt and its people,” she said, referring to her controversial costume printed with the red, white and black colours of the Egyptian flag.

With a surge of Islamism in Egypt in recent years, most Egyptian belly dancers quit the profession, leaving it for foreigners to dominate.

In September last year, a private Egyptian TV station cancelled a multi-episode contest scouting for belly-dance talents, after the country’s top Islamic body slammed the show as a “corruption of morals”.