Cairo: Egyptian satirist Bassem Yousuf was released on bail on Sunday after nearly five hours of questioning over alleged insults to President Mohammad Mursi.
Egypt’s mainly secular opposition has slammed an arrest warrant for the country’s most popular TV satirist, saying it is part of a crackdown on Mursi's opponents.
Yousuf, who hosts the popular satirical show Al Bernameg (The Programme) appeared earlier on Sunday for investigations to face alleged accusations of insulting Islam and defaming Mursi on his weekly show. He was surrounded by dozens of supportive fans and opposition backers.
Yousuf, known as Egypt’s John Stewart, denied on Saturday night the accusations in an interview with CBC, a private TV station that broadcasts his show.
“Those manipulating Islam in their political propaganda are the ones who distort Islam with their mistaken talk on religious channels,” Yousuf said, referring to Mursi’s Islamist allies. “As a Muslim, I don’t accept this.”
Using his characteristic genre of satire, Yousuf thanked Mursi for his controversial statements, which he said prompted the producer of the show to dismiss half the crew. “We no longer need them because the president has provided us with a lot of material through his videotapes.”
Prosecutors said the probe with Yousuf was in response to legal complaints filed against him by several people. Sobhi Saleh, a Muslim Brotherhood lawyer who volunteered to join Yousuf’s defence team, denied that the complainants are Islamists. Yousuf spurned Saleh’s voluntary gesture.
Yousuf often pokes fun at Mursi who belongs to the powerful Muslim Brotherhood.
His razor-sharp humour has infuriated Islamists who accuse Yousuf of showing disrespect to Islam and the democratically elected president. The radical Muslim cleric Abu Islam recently called Yousuf a “pretty boy” and advised him to wear the full-face veil or burqa, saying he is a “seduction for men”.
The arrest order for Yousuf came days after several opposition activists were arrested in what the opposition said was a clampdown to silence opponents of the ruling Islamists.
“The arrest warrants against Bassem Yousuf and his media colleagues on charges only known under fascist regimes are a continuation of ugly and desperate practices to abort the revolution,” wrote the opposition leader Mohammad Al Baradei on Twitter.
The alleged clampdown on opponents comes amid a deepening crisis between the opposition and Mursi whose critics accuse of failing to fulfil the objectives of the 2011 revolt that deposed Hosni Mubarak and brought the Islamist leader to power.