A joke too far - top satirist Bassem Youssef arrested over insults to President Morsi

 

Cairo

He is one of Egypt’s most famous television stars – a wildly popular satirist whose Friday night shows are eagerly awaited by tens of millions of viewers.

But tonight, the Egyptian authorities were facing accusations of conducting a political witch-hunt after Bassem Youssef – whose weekly programme regularly lampoons the President, Mohamed Morsi, and his Islamist allies – was arrested over allegations that he insulted Mr Morsi and the Islamic faith.

Youssef answered his summons to the general prosecutor’s office in Cairo today in typically irreverent fashion. Mobbed by cameramen and a few dozen supporters, he arrived wearing an absurdly oversized graduation hat – the kind donned by President Morsi when he was awarded an honorary degree in Pakistan last month.

“Police officers and lawyers at the prosecutor-general’s office want to be photographed with me,” he said via his Twitter account after entering the building. “Maybe this is why they ordered my arrest?”

After being interrogated, Youssef was released on a bail of E£15,000 (£1,450). Campaigners have  warned the arrest represents a dangerous development.

Last week, following a series of clashes between anti-government protesters and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s general prosecutor issued arrest warrants for five prominent opponents of Mr Morsi’s. They included the high-profile blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah, who was arrested in 2011 and also back in 2006 during the time of Hosni Mubarak.

On Friday, following another eruption of violence in Alexandria, 13 more people – among them liberal activists and four lawyers – were arrested, further stoking allegations of a political crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood’s opponents.

“It’s obvious that Mohamed Morsi is using the general prosecutor to serve his interests,” said Nihad Aboud, from the Cairo-based Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression. “They can see the threat from someone like Bassem Youssef, a man who has more than one million followers on Twitter and whose show is one of the most famous in Egypt.”

The current general prosecutor, Talaat Ibrahim, was appointed by Mr Morsi last November under controversial circumstances. His elevation to the job came after the President, a lifelong member of the Muslim Brotherhood, selected him via a highly divisive constitutional decree. It led to suspicions among some  of the Muslim Brotherhood’s opponents that the office would become politicised and used as a tool to browbeat Egypt’s liberal and leftist opposition groups.

Youssef, a heart surgeon, found fame after uploading a series of skits on to YouTube following the downfall of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

The clips, which featured Youssef skewering a variety of politicians  and public figures, were watched by tens of millions of people and secured him his own television show. But  the programme has often earned the ire of fundamentalist sheikhs, some of whom have angrily denounced  the comedian.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior and Experienced iOS / Android Developers

£40000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Senior and experienced iOS/Andr...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - IT Managed Services - £65,000

£35000 per annum + OTE £65,000 +Pension: h2 Recruit Ltd: A fantastic opportuni...

Recruitment Genius: Industrial Gas Burner Engineer

£26000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Industrial Gas Burner Engine...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital