International

Egypt authorities to investigate popular satirist Bassem Youssef

Youssef faces probe after ridiculing the pro-military fervor of some Egyptians

Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef has poked fun at the last two administrations in Cairo.
ASMAA WAGUIH/Reuters

Egypt's top prosecutor has ordered an investigation into a complaint alleging that hugely popular satirist Bassem Youssef — often referred to as Egypt's Jon Stewart — harmed national interests by ridiculing the country's military on his TV show.

Youssef, a medical doctor by profession, has in recent years faced numerous public suits and investigations into his work on his wildly popular weekly program Al-Bernameg (The Show), which is modeled after Stewart's The Daily Show. On the program, Youssef has lampooned the country's last two administrations — ridiculing the long, didactic sermons of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and the dulcet tones of powerful military chief General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

The decision by chief prosecutor Hesham Barakat, announced Monday in a statement by his office, could be a prelude to further action against Youssef, such as questioning and a possible trial. The investigation could also exonerate Youssef and lead to the long list of complaints against him being shelved.

For some Egyptians, what happens to the satirist will answer the question of whether the government installed by the military after Morsi's ouster on July 3 is serious about shepherding the country toward democracy.

Liberals, who supported the removal of the Islamist president, are already unhappy with what they see as a possible return to the human rights abuses and police brutality of previous President Hosni Mubarak's 29-year rule.

After a summer hiatus of the show, Egyptians were keen to see how Youssef would react to the turmoil following the coup. Yet, several complaints were filed against the comedian after he mocked the pro-military fervor gripping Egypt in his first show back.

Youssef poked extensive fun at the adulation surrounding el-Sissi, lionized in the local media after leading the July 3 coup that ousted Morsi, though he held back from criticizing the general himself.

Youssef's only public comment on the complaints came on Friday after the episode was aired.

"It is only an episode in a program, people," he wrote on his Twitter account.

Monday's statement by the chief prosecutor's office said the complaint it chose to investigate accused Youssef of disturbing the peace, harming public interests, creating chaos, sowing sedition and threatening social security and peace.

It also alleges that Bassem inappropriately ridiculed the Egyptian people, the armed forces, as well as all "honorable national icons" without respect for traditions and customs.

During Friday's show, Youssef also ruthlessly ridiculed Morsi and the recently beleaguered Muslim Brotherhood that supported him.

After Morsi's ouster, the deposed president's supporters sued Youssef for insulting the presidency. Youssef was questioned for hours by prosecutors, but was not charged with any crime.

Before returning to the air after the summer hiatus, Youssef predicted in an article that he will continue to be pursued legally by his new critics "who allegedly love freedom dearly — when it works in their favor."

Al Jazeera and wire services

Monday's statement by the chief prosecutor's office said the complaint it chose to investigate accused Youssef of disturbing the peace, harming public interests, creating chaos, sowing sedition and threatening social security and peace.

It also alleges that Bassem inappropriately ridiculed the Egyptian people, the armed forces as well as all "honorable national icons'' without respect for traditions and customs.

During Friday's show, Youssef imitated el-Sissi's soft-spoken, affectionate way of addressing the public.

Youssef ruthlessly ridiculed former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, ousted by the nation's military in July after one year in office, and the recently beleaguered Muslim Brotherhood that supported him. Morsi supporters sued Youssef after his ouster for insulting the presidency. Youssef was questioned for hours by prosecutors, but was not charged with any crime.

Before returning to the air after a four-month absence, Youssef predicted in an article that he will continue to be pursued legally by his new critics "who allegedly love freedom dearly – when it works in their favor.''

A medical doctor by profession, Youssef regularly skewers the country's ruling party on his wildly popular weekly program "Al-Bernameg" (The Show), which is modelled on popular American comedian Jon Stewart's The Daily Show.

Al Jazeera and wire services

Monday's statement by the chief prosecutor's office said the complaint it chose to investigate accused Youssef of disturbing the peace, harming public interests, creating chaos, sowing sedition and threatening social security and peace.

It also alleges that Bassem inappropriately ridiculed the Egyptian people, the armed forces as well as all "honorable national icons'' without respect for traditions and customs.

During Friday's show, Youssef imitated el-Sissi's soft-spoken, affectionate way of addressing the public.

Youssef ruthlessly ridiculed former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, ousted by the nation's military in July after one year in office, and the recently beleaguered Muslim Brotherhood that supported him. Morsi supporters sued Youssef after his ouster for insulting the presidency. Youssef was questioned for hours by prosecutors, but was not charged with any crime.

Before returning to the air after a four-month absence, Youssef predicted in an article that he will continue to be pursued legally by his new critics "who allegedly love freedom dearly – when it works in their favor.''

A medical doctor by profession, Youssef regularly skewers the country's ruling party on his wildly popular weekly program "Al-Bernameg" (The Show), which is modelled on popular American comedian Jon Stewart's The Daily Show.

Al Jazeera and wire services

Monday's statement by the chief prosecutor's office said the complaint it chose to investigate accused Youssef of disturbing the peace, harming public interests, creating chaos, sowing sedition and threatening social security and peace.

It also alleges that Bassem inappropriately ridiculed the Egyptian people, the armed forces as well as all "honorable national icons'' without respect for traditions and customs.

During Friday's show, Youssef imitated el-Sissi's soft-spoken, affectionate way of addressing the public.

Youssef ruthlessly ridiculed former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, ousted by the nation's military in July after one year in office, and the recently beleaguered Muslim Brotherhood that supported him. Morsi supporters sued Youssef after his ouster for insulting the presidency. Youssef was questioned for hours by prosecutors, but was not charged with any crime.

Before returning to the air after a four-month absence, Youssef predicted in an article that he will continue to be pursued legally by his new critics "who allegedly love freedom dearly – when it works in their favor.''

A medical doctor by profession, Youssef regularly skewers the country's ruling party on his wildly popular weekly program "Al-Bernameg" (The Show), which is modelled on popular American comedian Jon Stewart's The Daily Show.

Al Jazeera and wire services

Monday's statement by the chief prosecutor's office said the complaint it chose to investigate accused Youssef of disturbing the peace, harming public interests, creating chaos, sowing sedition and threatening social security and peace.

It also alleges that Bassem inappropriately ridiculed the Egyptian people, the armed forces as well as all "honorable national icons'' without respect for traditions and customs.

During Friday's show, Youssef imitated el-Sissi's soft-spoken, affectionate way of addressing the public.

Youssef ruthlessly ridiculed former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, ousted by the nation's military in July after one year in office, and the recently beleaguered Muslim Brotherhood that supported him. Morsi supporters sued Youssef after his ouster for insulting the presidency. Youssef was questioned for hours by prosecutors, but was not charged with any crime.

Before returning to the air after a four-month absence, Youssef predicted in an article that he will continue to be pursued legally by his new critics "who allegedly love freedom dearly – when it works in their favor.''

A medical doctor by profession, Youssef regularly skewers the country's ruling party on his wildly popular weekly program "Al-Bernameg" (The Show), which is modelled on popular American comedian Jon Stewart's The Daily Show.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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