‘Egypt’s Jon Stewart’ Arrested, Interrogated for Criticizing Morsi, Islam

by Andrew Johnson

Bassem Youssef, an Egyptian political satirist often compared to Jon Stewart, turned himself in for questioning over the weekend after being charged for “disrupting public order” following gags he made about president Mohammed Morsi and Islam. Even after he had turned himself in for interrogation, Youssef kept the schtick going, however, wearing a comically large hat that mocked one Morsi recently wore while accepting an honorary degree in Pakistan.

According to the BBC, Youssef originally drew complaints for making jokes that portrayed Morsi as a pharaoh, putting his face on a pillow, and parodying his speeches on his show El Bernameg, or “The Program.” At least 28 complaints were filed against Youssef, which prompted authorities to investigate and issue a warrant for his arrest. When Youssef learned of the warrant, he tweeted, “I will go to the public prosecutor’s office on Sunday — unless they send me a police car and save me [the bother of] getting there on public transport.”

Throughout his five-hour interrogation, Youssef continued to poke fun at authorities. On Twitter, he quipped about officers and prosecutors asking to take pictures with him (“maybe this is why they ordered my arrest?”), their lack of hospitality (“Nobody even brought us a glass of water”), and their lack of preparedness (“Now they are looking for a laptop with a . . . program to play the [offending] episodes but they can’t find one”). A judge eventually asked him to remove any tweets he made during questioning. Youssef was later released on a bail of 15,000 Egyptian pounds, or $2,190.

The charges against Youssef are the latest example of Egypt’s increased scrutiny of the media under its new constitution. One legal expert told Egyptian media that more complaints similar to those against Youssef have been brought under Morsi’s regime than in all of former president Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

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