Egyptian court drops lawsuit to ban comedy show

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A Cairo court turned down on Saturday a suit filed by a Muslim Brotherhood lawyer demanding that a popular Egyptian satirist’s TV show be banned for allegedly insulting the president and excessive sexual innuendo.

Judge Hassouna Tawfiq said that the lawsuit against Bassem Youssef’s “El-Bernameg,” or “The Program,” was dropped because the plaintiff did not have an interest in the case.

Youssef - known as Egypt’s Jon Stewart - frequently satirizes President Mohammed Mursi. Mursi hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s best-organized political force.

Chief Brotherhood lawyer Abdel-Moneim Maqsoud told The Associated Press that plaintiff Mahmoud Abul-Enein brought forth the case on his own, without involving the Islamist group.

There have been multiple complaints filed in courts and to state prosecutors by Islamist lawyers against Youssef and other public figures for their political or religious opinions.

Opposition groups and activists say such lawsuits against public figures are part of a wider campaign to intimidate critics in deeply polarized Egypt.

Youssef was interrogated this week in a separate case for allegedly insulting Islam and the country’s leader, questioning that drew criticism from Washington and rights advocates.

The president’s office said it was not involved in the investigation, and that it recognizes the “importance of freedom of expression.”

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

Undeterred by the charges against him, Youssef was back on the air Friday poking new fun at the international publicity he received after lampooning the Egyptian president.

“Not everything has to be about the president. This isn’t fear. I am not pulling back,” he said on the show.

Youssef then said sarcastically that after his visit to the attorney general, he had decided not to talk on the show about Mursi - just the attorney general. The television audience erupted in applause and laughter.

Then Youssef spent a good part of his show ridiculing both the attorney general and the president.

Responding to a member of Mursi’s Brotherhood party who said in a news clip that Youssef only focuses on the Islamist group and the president, he joked: “They are not two things. They are one.”

It was a way of mocking the president’s insistence that his policy decisions are made independent of the Brotherhood.