Egypt: Comedian on trial: “They try to exhaust us”

2 April 2013

The popular satirist and comedian Bassem Youssef was interrogated nearly four hours in court on 31 March 2013 for alleged insults against President Mohamed Morsi and Islam. His case has intensified discussions about freedom of expression in the country.

Bassem Youssef

“A new complaint has been filed against me by the state prosecutor for spreading rumors and false news and disturbing public peace and order,” wrote Bassem Youssef on Twitter. “It seems like they are attempting to exhaust us physically, emotionally and financially,” he continued.

Egypt’s state prosecutor is investigating possible ‘threats to public security’, but while the case is being investigated further, Bassem Youssef was released on bail at the cost of 15,000 Egyptian pounds, close to 13,000 euros.

1.2 million Twitter readers
Bassem Youssef broadcasts a weekly satire program, Al Bernameg, which is called Egypt’s answer to the satirical American news programme ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart, and he allegedly has over 1.2 million followers on Twitter.

He is particularly known for his imitations of the president’s speeches and gestures, and when he arrived at the hearing, he continued to challenge those in power.

Upon arrival at the courthouse, where journalists and supporters had taken up, he walked through the crowd with a huge hat similar to the one that President Mohamed Morsi had on during a visit to Pakistan earlier this month.

Doubt on president Mursi’s intentions
The large number of cases against journalists has seriously cast doubt on president Mursi’s attitude to freedom of expression, which was a key requirement during the popular uprising against the toppled president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Fans have eagerly defended Youssef in social media, and the arrests of journalists are seen as an attempt to scare people into silence.

Authorities have ordered the arrest of several opposition activists accused of inciting violence against Mursi and the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, including the blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah, who was a symbol of the uprising against Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

AFP – 31 March 2013:
Egypt satirist Bassem Youssef freed on bail
Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef was released on bail on Sunday after nearly five hours of questioning over alleged insults to the president and religion, highlighting concerns over freedom of expression in post-revolt Egypt. By Jailan Zayan

Daily News Egypt – 31 March 2013:
In Pictures: Bassem Youssef presents himself at the High Court
Satirical TV host Bassem Youssef presented himself for investigation at the High Court in central Cairo on Sunday morning.

Daily News Egypt – 31 March 2013:
Bassem Youssef released on bail
TV host released on EGP 15,000 bail following questioning by Prosecutor General’s office

Previous post on this case: – 9 January 2013:
Egypt: Prosecutors investigate comedian for insulting the president

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