'Egypt's Jon Stewart' Charged in Cairo

Bassem Youssef one of 5 activists accused of instigating violence

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 31, 2013 2:15 PM CDT

(Newser) – Egyptian authorities today questioned a TV comic known as the nation's Jon Stewart and released him on $2,200 bail, Al Jazeera reports. Charged with insulting Islam and President Morsi, Bassem Youssef turned himself in amid waves of political unrest that have deeply divided Egypt. Youssef, the most popular Morsi critic, arrived wearing an oversized graduation hat similar to one worn by the president when he received an honorary degree in Pakistan. The AP reports that Youssef poked fun at the prosecutor's office afterwards: "They asked me the color of my eyes. Really," he tweeted.

Youssef is one of five activists accused of sparking violence in Egypt, but authorities deny they are curbing freedom of expression or targeting those who insult Islam. "Just like we moved against someone who insults Christianity, we moved against someone who is accused of insulting Islam," said an official. Critics, however, see intimidation and repression: "It is an escalation in an attempt to restrict space for critical expression," said Egypt's director at Human Rights Watch. Among Youssef's many jabs at Morsi: mocking his use of the word "love" by crooning a love song to a pillow with Morsi's face on it.

A bodyguard secures popular Egyptian television satirist Bassem Youssef in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, March 31, 2013.   (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Popular Egyptian television satirist Bassem Youssef waves to his supporters as he enters Egypt's state prosecutors office in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, March 31, 2013.   (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
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