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Court drops suit to ban comedy show

CAIRO
AP

A Cairo court on Saturday dismissed a lawsuit filed by an Islamist lawyer demanding that a popular Egyptian satirist’s TV show be banned for allegedly insulting the president and containing excessive sexual innuendo.

Judge Hassouna Tawfiq said the court dropped the complaint against Bassem Youssef’s “ElBernameg,” or “The Program,” because the plaintiff did not have an interest in the case. Youssef still faces other investigations related to the show but the ruling may set a precedent.

The comedian has been in the international spotlight since Egyptian authorities brought him in for questioning last week in a separate case over the same accusations, a move that prompted criticism from as far away as Washington. On his Jon Stewart-inspired show, Youssef frequently satirizes everything from President Mohammed Morsi’s policies to his mannerisms, as well as hardline Islamic clerics, while highlighting contradictions in their comments.

His criticism of Morsi and the president’s backers in the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most organized political force, has angered some within the Islamist fundamentalist group.

Plaintiff Mahmoud Abul-Enein, a Brotherhood lawyer, filed the suit demanding the suspension of the license of the private satellite TV channel, the Capital Broadcasting Center, which airs Youssef’s show. He claimed the comedian’s program “corrupted morals” and violated “religious principles.”

A chief Brotherhood lawyer said that Abul-Enein’s lawsuit was filed independent of the group. The president’s office said last week that it was not involved in the legal action against Youssef, and that it recognizes the “importance of freedom of expression.”

In his written opinion, the judge explained that “it is clear from the statement released by the president’s office . . . that the presidency is not going to file a complaint against media personality Bassem Youssef or anyone else out of respect for freedom of expression.” He added: “It is the right of citizens to express themselves freely far from restrictions and the presidency urges respect for the law.”