Bassem Youssef, who hosts a television show modeled after Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” confirmed on his official Twitter account that he received an arrest warrant, mockingly saying he will head to the prosecution office Sunday “unless they send me a police car today and save me transportation trouble,” Al Ahram reported.
Ealier on Saturday, Egypt’s prosecutor-general ordered the arrest of the famous political satirist, to look into complaints accusing him of insulting President Mohamed Morsi, denigrating Islam and spreading false news with the aim of disrupting public order.
Youssef hosts a weekly satire show, El-Bernameg (The Show), on private satellite television channel CBC.
The complaints were filed by 12 citizens after Youssef’s March 1 episode in which he mocked the president’s public interview with TV anchor Amr El-Leithy in February.
One anonymous complainant accused Youssef of denigrating Islam and disturbing security, and demanded that the state take “deterrent measures against him so that others with weak resolve wouldn’t dare to insult Islam.” The same anonymous person also accused Youssef of diminishing President Morsi’s stature “domestically and abroad.”
Heba Morayef of Human Rights Watch thinks the Egyptian government has signaled that it takes Youssef’s threat seriously, going so far as to appoint a judge to investigate the complaints against him, according to.
“It means you’re prioritizing the case, and dedicating resources to it,” Morayef told the NY Times, noting wryly that the same public prosecutor has ignored numerous complaints of torture and the use of excessive force. Issuing an arrest warrant without a reasonable fear that Youssef had any intent to flee the country “is completely unnecessary and definitely a political escalation,” she said.
In January, a number of Islamist lawyers filed a lawsuit against Youssef, accusing him of “undermining the standing of the president” during his show.
However, charges back then were dropped before the case reached a court.