A prominent satirical TV presenter has appeared before Egypt’s public prosecutor, accused of insulting Islam, the president Mohamed Mursi and the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.
Bassem Youssef targets public figures for lampooning on his popular TV show, and that has made him a target for dozens of official complaints. A warrant for his arrest was issued on Saturday.
One of his fans who escorted him to the hearing, Abdel Rahman, said: “My voice which cannot be heard in the media. Youssef is my voice. He speaks for us, and we are here today because we do not want to lose our voice.”
The president and the Muslim Brotherhood are already suspected of railroading an Islamist agenda on a large unwilling section of Egyptian society, and the president’s attempt to award himself extra power was just one subject for ridicule on Youssef’s show.
But not everyone backs him wholeheartedly. One Cairo resident, named only as Ezzat, said: “It’s not OK to insult anyone. But he didn’t do that. He went a bit overboard and he should tone it down a bit. He is someone who is well-liked, and he has a specific style, a critical style, but it’s a bit much.”
Youssef is the latest in a line of critics at the centre of legal action for insulting the president. The rise in litigation has called into question Mursi’s commitment to the freedom of expression – one of the key demands of the popular uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak.