Middle East

Egypt questions comedian over satirist show

Egyptian activists shout anti-Muslim brotherhood slogans in front of Egypt's state prosecutors office in support of popular Egyptian television satirist Bassem Youssef, in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, March 31, 2013. Arabic on banner reads, "6th April youth movement." (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

CAIRO: Egyptian prosecutors on Wednesday questioned a stand-up comedian on blasphemy charges following a guest appearance on the show of popular satirist Bassem Youssef, himself the subject of an investigation.

Ali Kandil is accused of insulting Islam during a segment on Youssef's show Elbernameg in February, in which he poked fun at the discourse and style of some Muslim clerics -- bringing to television screens what is already widely said in Egyptian homes.

Kandil's questioning comes hours after Islamist President Mohamed Mursi stressed Egypt's commitment to freedom of expression.

"The presidency reiterates the importance of freedom of expression and fully respects press freedom," Mursi's office said in a statement.

In a video posted on the Internet, Kandil dismissed the charges against him as "utter nonsense" but said he would go to the prosecutor's office because he had nothing to hide.

"I take responsibility for every word I said," Kandil said.

He said that it was people's responsibility to uphold the goals of the 2011 revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak -- bread, freedom and social justice.

"The part in my control, the one I can guarantee in my role, is freedom, freedom of expression," Kandil said.

The soaring number of legal complaints against journalists has cast doubt on Mursi's commitment to freedom of expression.

Youssef's high profile case prompted the United States to express "real concerns" about the direction being taken by the Egyptian government.





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