CAIRO — 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 the U.S. On his Jon Stewart-inspired show, Youssef frequently satirizes everything from President Mohammed Morsi’s policies to his mannerisms, as well as hard-line 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.
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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 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.”
Islamist lawyers have filed multiple legal complaints 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 Egypt.
The country is reeling from protests and political turmoil pitting a largely secular and liberal opposition against Morsi, his Brotherhood backers and fellow Islamists.
Thousands of activists took to the streets Saturday to mark the fifth anniversary of the founding of a leading opposition group, the April 6 Youth Movement, and to push a long list of demands, including the formation of a more-inclusive government amid a worsening economy.
A recent diesel crisis has crippled life for millions in Egypt who rely on subsidized fuel, while the value of the country’s currency has slid sharply and the central bank’s foreign reserves are shrinking.