Sunday, March 31, 2013

TV comedian issued arrest warrant for insulting president

Al Arabiya

Egypt’s Public prosecutor has ordered the immediate arrest of popular TV host Bassem Youssef on Saturday, calling for him to be brought in for alleged insults he made about Islam and the Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, state news agency reported.

Youssef, the host of Al-Barnameg or the Program in English has been dubbed the Egyptian Jon Stewart, used his personal Twitter account to confirm the order for his arrest.

“The warrant and order to arrest me is true,” Youssef tweeted Saturday afternoon. “I will go tomorrow to the Attorney General’s office, but if you prefer to send a box to deliver me in today it will save me money on transportation.”

Minutes following his tweet, Youssef’s fans filed out comments expressing their sadness, support, and disappointment at the Egyptian government’s behavior.

One follower @sanfoora wrote “Please be careful, please don’t go”. Other tweeps criticized him for his performance on Friday’s night’s episode. @AmrEzzat tweeted “You shouldn’t have pushed the envelope too far during your latest appearance.”

Youssef’s latest Tweet encouraged the public to “unfollow” Mursi on his Twitter account as an act of revenge over the president’s “sever assault against freedom”. “This way I will be outnumbering him with my follower… what an earthshaking comeback.”

During Friday’s show, Youssef mocked Mursi’s speech on state television, which he made after the attacks on the Muslim Brotherhood Headquarters earlier this week. Youssef replayed the recorded speech and added some of his ‘humorous special effects’ by implementing graphics of a magic stick, lightening stocks, and sparks of fire at every hand gesture Mursi made during his address to the nation.

Youssef’s Twitter followers have said that he ‘pushed the buttons’ too far.

“Ever since the president came to power, he held the heads of all Egyptians high making us all proud,” Youssef said during his episode followed by a large crowd of laughter.

Youssef said his work is not aimed at Islamists, but instead on government officials who are ruling the country and making decisions.

Previously, Youssef poked fun at those in power along with Mursi's temporary adoption of extensive powers back in November and December 2012.

Youssef is not only known amongst Egyptians, his work has reached other nations and has been picked up by renowned comedic figures, like America’s Jon Stewart himself and a Syrian revolution artist Asalah al-Nasri.

“He highlights critical topics and presents his material in a sharp comedic way,” al-Nasri told Al Arabiya. “I love how daring he is and how he treats different issues.”

Amr Katamesh, an Egyptian actor and standup political comedian known for using poetry to deliver his message, told Al Arabiya that he follows Youssef very carefully and enjoys watching his program.

“Although we have different styles in performing comedy, but I appreciate Mr. Youssef’s bravery and style when delivering his messages,” Katamesh added.

Youssef is known to have embroiled high-profile media personalities in the country trading fierce retorts and warnings of legal action against the host.

Previously a heart surgeon, the doctor-cum-comedian presents his parody show on the privately-owned "CBC" Egyptian satellite channel every Friday.

*Photo courtesy of Atlantic Council

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