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‘Egypt’s Jon Stewart’ reveals details of interrogation

April 1st, 2013
04:39 PM ET

By Samuel Burke & Claire Calzonetti CNN

‘Egypt’s Jon Stewart’ faced his toughest crowd yet on Sunday.

Bassem Youssef, host of the satirical Arabic-language news show 'The Program,' was interrogated for five hours at an Egyptian prosecutor's office, as part of an investigation over complaints that his comedy material insulted Islam and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy.

During the interrogation, Youssef says, he was forced to watch evidence against him – his own television programs.

"Basically we were going through the punch lines," he told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview on Monday. "Answer questions, line by line, phrase by phrase and joke by joke." 

The comedian was released Sunday on $2,200 bail in response to three lawsuits filed against him, the prosecutor general's office told CNN.

President Morsy's office says that the public prosecutor operates independently of the presidency and that the president respects free speech.

The popular TV host told Amanpour he expects to be further questioned over other episodes of his show and also believes the prosecutor will attempt to take the case to a court to see if there's evidence for a trial.

"If there is no case, hopefully I'll get my bail money back. If not, I'm just going to go to trial and see what happens," he said.

President Morsy is not the only problem, Youssef said. "It's the problem of the people who are basically behind the power, the Muslim Brotherhood."

Despite the charges, Youssef said he isn't intimidated and will not change the tone of his show.

"I'm not intimidated; I'm just exhausted by this," he said. "So I'm not going to let this drain me. I'm just going to continue and continue with the show, continue with the same high tone of the show. I'm not going to back down."

Youssef called the law being used against him antiquated and ridiculous.  "These are actually the foundations of a fascist regime."

In spite of the circumstances he finds himself in, Youssef sounded optimistic about Egypt’s future.

"The problem now is with the rhetoric of the government. They are blaming everything on the media for talking about problems instead of actually solving the problems," he told Amanpour.

"Now it is the time for the political powers to actually step up and show us if they're actually truly moderate and they're truly democratic and they believe in democracy."

He said he is like many practicing Muslims: moderate and not fond of people who represents what they call "political Islam."

Youssef said that his idol, American comedian Jon Stewart, has been in touch with Youssef throughout the ordeal.

Previously Youssef told Amanpour that his mother had always been afraid of him being locked up for his comments.

"Going to jail is a risk that we have to go through. But you know, with big shows and big programs comes creative responsibility and maybe bigger risks," he said. "So I think we just have to accept that this could happen anytime."

Despite the complaints against him Youssef said this is the best time to have a political satire show in Egypt.

"Everything happening around us is surreal," he said. "If you don't make fun of it, you'll just like wither away and die."

MORE: Christiane Amanpour's interview with Mohamed Morsy


Filed under:  Egypt • Latest Episode
soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. Zaki Salah

    Quote "President Morsy's office says that the public prosecutor operates independently of the presidency and that the president respects free speech."unquote......... Hahahahahaha, the guy is really funny...

    April 1, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Reply
  2. maha

    Really, I use to be BIG fan of Baism's show. I downloaded it during the revolution when its topics support civil-rule demands and humanity and Egyptian rights.

    However, Basim returned 180 degree after Morsy won the presidency elections!!!!!!

    Gradually turned to be with pro-Mubarak supporter!!!!!

    If the current Egyptian regime is not democratic, then would Basim will talk rather than insult every singly move or talk Morsy does???? but freedom of speech should have rules of not insulating telling lies to destroy the unity and pace of the community.

    Basim wrongly understood free-speech rule when accusing the president and brotherhood group with very slang and bad-words context.

    Basim really overestimated, overreacted in his comments and shows against elected president. do any one think that free speech is throwing bad-words over Morsy character just to underestimate the president personality.

    April 1, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Reply
    • Sara

      stop being so shallow and wake up darling

      April 1, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Reply
    • B

      You don't know what free speech is, clearly.

      April 1, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Reply
    • andrewfong

      Freedom of speech must protect the pro-Mubarak supporter as much as the pro-Morsy supporter (and everyone in between).

      >> but freedom of speech should have rules of not insulating telling lies to destroy the unity and pace of the community.

      Mubarak would have agreed.

      April 1, 2013 at 6:56 pm | Reply
    • xviirus

      I want him to go jail for one reason. to let everyone know how pathetic everything is going on here. a lot of drama is going to happen and that's the point, President and his family are going to pass all the limits if they ever did one little thing to Bassem. I promise if they ever put him in jail, This morsi and his brotherhood will completely disappear, New voices are going to be heard and it will escalate like never before. Do they really think it's going to pass like it's nothing ? I. myself who has never joined any political event nor cared about this country like too much, I would totally join all the upcoming events if they ever did anything to him, and so 90% of the egyptian people.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:03 pm | Reply
    • peter

      are you sure that bassem is against revolution ???????????
      bassem is against the dictator morsi and his brotherhoods who made a lot of fascist orders while he considered to be the president of all egyptian he only did what the ( ershad office) ordered him
      bassem uncovered all this things to the all world not only the egyptians so he faced the last investigations
      all of egypt with you bassem and down the puppet dictator morsi

      April 1, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Reply
    • Jordan

      and do you believe elected president is a sacred as your MB does! if your elected president is proven to be politically disable, are you still praising him!! it's not all about freedom of speech at this stage, it's about your idiot MB government who want Egyptians to become idiots, liar like them. even those who didn't watch Mr. Youssef program, still refused the MBs ignorant.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:06 pm | Reply
    • Ahmad

      Quote "but freedom of speech should have rules of not insulating telling lies to destroy the unity and pace of the community"unquote.

      These are the very exact words of Mubarek's regime against its opponents, but yet now they are used by Morsy's supporters, and if we disagree, we are accused of being Pro- Mubarak! Funny, but really sick.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:09 pm | Reply
    • Suomynona

      As an outsider to this all situation, I can have an objective analysis of the structure of your comment.

      It is quite interesting the way you associate yourself with Basim at the beginning of your comment, acknowledging that his topics during the revolution were quote: "support civil-rule demands and humanity and Egyptian rights", by this way you are inferring that they no longer are in the present

      You also emphasize certain key phrases, such as, "pro-Mubarak supporter!" and "presidency elections", by utilizing exclamation points. Cheap but smart.

      And finally you altered the very definition of free speech, but implying it's a concept or an idea, that should be restrict by a fix set of rules and laws. I'm sorry but that is not the definition of free speech.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:24 pm | Reply
    • Ali Amr Ali

      It is your responsibility to get the correct knowledge so you can have the correct road map of life. Ignorance is no defense. Ignorance will kill you
      Egyptians are brave people, they are willing do die for their freedom and democracy

      April 1, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Reply
      • Ali Amr Ali

        Sometimes it's better to be kind than to be right. We don't need an intelligent mind that speaks, but a patient heart that listens
        kindly don't merge the two words "Islam" and "president Morsi" in one sentence as he is a criminal he and his Party called "Muslim Brother Hood" they are shame on Islam and democracy
        •we blame USA & our people we voted for Morsi because they helped Muslims brotherhood to rule Egypt, and they still support them...manifestations and strikes to get rid of them fill streets in Egypt...everyone hates them..and their tragedy end will come soooooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnn

        April 1, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
    • microarm15

      You should end your comment with:"I am not muslim brotherhood member but I respect them"

      April 1, 2013 at 8:22 pm | Reply
      • ramy

        well said bro

        April 2, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • margo

      I think you don't understand freedom of speech.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:02 pm | Reply
    • Mike

      feedom of speach means freedom of speach ... NP RULES

      April 1, 2013 at 10:42 pm | Reply
      • William

        No rules for political speech... But there are rules... The classic is you can not yell "FIRE" in a crowed theater when there is no fire.

        April 2, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • Name*rony

      Look around you dear please you're so shallow I'm sorry to read your comment The president is an employee ,a human beings like us ,if he does wrong we've to stop him .Bassem only spots the light on the mistakes of our government in a comedian way .

      April 2, 2013 at 6:23 am | Reply
    • Alan

      You clearly fail to notice how much your president made a fool of himself, his country, you and your entire population with his foolish metaphors and way of speaking as well as his disastrous english.

      April 2, 2013 at 9:56 am | Reply
      • RamsesC

        Well said my friend, thank you

        April 2, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
    • ahmed

      Fully agree with you Maha , we have to differntiate between freedom and accusing others , human freedom shouldn't hurt others

      April 3, 2013 at 8:08 am | Reply
  3. abbydelabbey

    Bassem Youssef is a very courageous man. I wish him the very best.

    April 1, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Reply
  4. CFunk

    I'm sure FoxNews would like to do the same thing to Jim Carrey.

    April 1, 2013 at 6:54 pm | Reply
    • margo

      lol

      April 1, 2013 at 10:03 pm | Reply
  5. Ahmad

    Quote "but freedom of speech should have rules of not insulating telling lies to destroy the unity and pace of the community"unquote.

    These are the very exact words of Mubarek's regime against its opponents, but yet now they are used by Morsy's supporters, and if we disagree, we are accused of being Pro- Mubarak! Funny, but really sick.

    April 1, 2013 at 6:55 pm | Reply
    • William

      I am sorry to say that it seems that the Egyptian people have traded one dictator for another... But this should come as no surprise because the Brotherhood has made its intentions clear for years...

      April 2, 2013 at 9:57 am | Reply
  6. peter

    bassem is against the dictator morsi and his brotherhoods who made a lot of fascist orders while he considered to be the president of all egyptian he only did what the ( ershad office) ordered him
    bassem uncovered all this things to the all world not only the egyptians so he faced the last investigations
    all of egypt with you bassem and down the puppet dictator morsi

    April 1, 2013 at 7:06 pm | Reply
    • Ingy Sammakia

      Peter, you're so bright, because you picked up on the ershad (MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD ERSHAD OFFICE), who rule Egypt and also El Shater, who was jailed with Morsi and now is a consultant for Morsi.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Reply
  7. Ingy Sammakia

    The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt can't stand any criticism or humour. Mr Youssef is a comedian and the Brotherhood is feeling a tight rope around their neck, because they're losing their popularity, so they're picking on journalists, comedians and the media. A couple of months ago they shot a journalist in the head and chest, because he filmed the Militia activites. I don't think the USA should support these monsters that killed, raped and beat up revolutionaries that oppose their views.

    April 1, 2013 at 7:07 pm | Reply
    • hussein abozeid

      good words

      April 2, 2013 at 6:57 pm | Reply
  8. Alghareb

    Basem did insult the islam even if it was in indirect way and he did insult the president Morsy. I think the only purpose of his show in these days is to insult Morsy. Freedom of speech is to criticize the policy of the president not the president himself personally the way he wears and the way he speaks. I think that's a lack of politeness and from that the president or his supporters have the right to accuse you of insulting Morsy as president or as a citizen!

    April 1, 2013 at 7:21 pm | Reply
    • Vinnie Tesla

      Is impoliteness something people should be sent to prison for?

      April 1, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Reply
      • Alghareb

        That's how it works here! That's the Egyptian law! We can't blame Morsy for that. There are many Islamists went to prison because they insulted an actress!! and it didn't stop on that but their channels were stopped! all of that happened while Morsy in the office although he belongs to an Islamist party!
        It's all about the law!!

        April 2, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  9. reem

    firstly, i would like to say to bassem " good luuuuuck yaaaa baaaassem"
    secondly, i want to say everyone who said something, should be responsible about it. that what bassem tries to do, collect the speech of people who are pretending they are islamic at diffrient episodes and channells or what our president is saying.

    April 1, 2013 at 7:24 pm | Reply
  10. Tony

    Either some people in Egypt don't know what freedom of speech, but making fun, mocking, and insulting the president and his policies are part of free speech. In America, there are people who mock Obama for being a Muslim, a Communist, a Radical, a Thug, an Immigrant, etc...and those people don't go to jail unlike what it is in Egypt. Doesn't matter if you're the President of the United States or the President of Egypt, if you can't stand yourself being mocked, insulted, and poke fun of-you shouldn't president. If Morsi had done a good job running the country, he wouldn't be criticized/mocked in the media. However, Mr. Morsi failed to live up to the expectations of the Egyptian people–he failed to reform the police/security system, failed to improve the economy, failed to compensate those who were killed during the Revolution, and instead use threatening language against those who opposed him, using words such as "foreign hands" and "foreign fingers that are undermining Egypt" when it is him and his Muslim Brotherhood oligarchy that are undermining Egypt. Leadership comes with responsibility. Mr. Morsi is not holding that responsibility. What ironic about Mr. Morsi is that he claims that he represents the Revolution when Mr. Morsi himself served for the old Mubarak system by being a Member of Parliament (2000-2005). Doesn't matter if he's from the Muslim Brotherhood or not, but by serving for the old system, it shows that he will align himself with the old way of thinking and the old way of governing. Folks that are part of the old system are not agents of change.

    April 1, 2013 at 7:57 pm | Reply
  11. Mooody

    GO GO – Dr.Bassem Youssef

    April 1, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Reply
  12. omar

    أختلف معك، لكني أحترمك
    I disagree with you, but I do respect you

    April 1, 2013 at 9:27 pm | Reply
  13. Elliot Abougalambo

    For a moment do you think the brotherhood will ever relinquish their hold on Egypt !!! They will slowly but surely eliminate who ever pose a problem to thei administration or contradiction and POOR EGYPT the shining star of the middle east will become another Iran – We know what the clerics are doing by pressing a case against Bassem Yousef Bey they want to silence him – Also It is time for Egypt to wake up from that long long sleep and live a free life.without having all these coverings.

    April 1, 2013 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  14. Ahmed

    You go Bassem! Fight those fascists who are dragging our country to the middle ages, never back down! You are one of the few people who give us hope and optimism in the middle of these dark times

    April 1, 2013 at 10:16 pm | Reply
  15. George

    Dr. Basem Yousef is a fantastic satirist, and an evolved/cultured Egyptian Muslim. As a heart surgeon, he gave up practicing medicin to introduce comedy and political satire to Egyptians, who supposedly became free. Unfortunately, the Muslim Brotherhood intended to be a new dictatorship, and they are using gangs in the name Islam to oppress Muslims.

    April 1, 2013 at 10:32 pm | Reply
  16. Mustafa Meaal

    Bassem is the best thing we are Arabs (I'm Iraqi) gained from the so called Arab Spring! He's smart funny and a real liberal who respects the humanity of people unlike Islamist. Arab leaders and Arabs in general need to grow up and learn how to take a joke without threatening to throw people in prison or kill them! Good luck Bassem we love you and wish you the best!

    April 1, 2013 at 10:39 pm | Reply
  17. Dr. Mahmoud

    i completely recpect Dr . Bassem .. i am a big fan of his show and i see that it depends actually on mistakes of others .. so if they are able to handle this country well .. and i believe it's impossible for them to do so as they have already failed do anything so far except for winning elections by fooling the poor and tne uneducated ..,, well i believe his show would then be less rough for them .. anyway i see people that Dr Bassem mention in his show ,, should start fixing themselves and solving their problems instead of complaining

    April 2, 2013 at 12:13 am | Reply
  18. Su

    The Arab world needs many people like Bassem Yousif, who knocked down the walls of fear, this is the twenty first century, Presidents and PMs should know and understand that they are servants of the people who elected them, and if they believe in elections, then they should believe that criticising them is part of the game of democracy.
    Bassem you are not only the hope of the Egyptians for a better future,but also the hope of all the people of the middle east.

    April 2, 2013 at 3:44 am | Reply
  19. MARYAM

    The Bible says that God wanted 32 virgins for himself, as a plunder from war,WHY?
    Num. 31:31-40 says, "Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the Lord commanded Moses. The plunder remaining from the spoils that the soldiers took was 675,000 sheep, 72,000 cattle, 61,000 donkeys and 32,000 women who had never slept with a man.... And the half, the portion of those who had gone out to war, was....16,000 people, of which the tribute for the Lord was 32."..........................

    April 2, 2013 at 4:54 am | Reply
  20. MARYAM

    32 virgins??
    The Bible says that God wanted 32 virgins for himself, as a plunder from war,WHY?
    Num. 31:31-40 says, "Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the Lord commanded Moses. The plunder remaining from the spoils that the soldiers took was 675,000 sheep, 72,000 cattle, 61,000 donkeys and 32,000 women who had never slept with a man.... And the half, the portion of those who had gone out to war, was....16,000 people, of which the tribute for the Lord was 32."...

    April 2, 2013 at 4:54 am | Reply
  21. MARYAM

    BAD RELIGION:The Bible says that God wanted 32 virgins for himself, as a plunder from war,WHY?
    Num. 31:31-40 says, "Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the Lord commanded Moses. The plunder remaining from the spoils that the soldiers took was 675,000 sheep, 72,000 cattle, 61,000 donkeys and 32,000 women who had never slept with a man.... And the half, the portion of those who had gone out to war, was....16,000 people, of which the tribute for the Lord was 32.
    "...????????????????????

    April 2, 2013 at 4:55 am | Reply
  22. SouSou

    Good Luck ya Bassem – we are all behind you and love your show, don't stop, not for the sake of comedy and laughs but for the sake of the people of Egypt, you are the voice of the people of Egypt. Through you and others who are speaking out the truth Egypt will have it's freedom. God Bless You.

    April 2, 2013 at 6:38 am | Reply
  23. Joe Jones

    We need to stop funding the Muslim Brotherhood

    April 2, 2013 at 7:58 am | Reply
    • Alshymaa Hassan

      We are not joking of Muslim Brotherhood we are just criticize there wrong style of managing to Egypt and there wrong speech's to Media

      April 2, 2013 at 9:35 am | Reply
  24. Alshymaa Hassan

    We are all love and respect Egypt and Islam , We disagree with the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohammad Morsi does not mean aversion to Islam , What Bassem Yousef has done on behalf of the criticism of the wrong style of Brotherhood management to Egypt no more and we are all agree with him, So, Good luck Bassem Yousef and God be with you

    April 2, 2013 at 9:30 am | Reply
  25. Da Vinci

    What is Your opinion about it?

    ( In my point of view really many people judge this action was violence his right of "freedom of speech) but there are a lot people do not know anything about Law and each rights has the limit with the announced base of the amendment. )

    I am not from Arab country but seen those people dont understand how to life in peace without not mix up "Religion & Culture" , which of course their live was as a strong horse without moderation.

    what the world surprise with this? http://youtu.be/0ivH51D5kCY

    April 2, 2013 at 11:03 am | Reply
  26. fella

    Jon Stewart is also about to direct an Anti-Iran film. Is this Jon Stewart going to do that?

    April 2, 2013 at 11:04 am | Reply
  27. George

    Basically Egypt is 50% women, and 10% Christian, and 30% secular modern Muslims? That leaves about 10% Neanderthals Muslims, who are happy to beat women, and all Muslims who refuse to be cave dwellers! How is this lopsided situation is sustainable? Regardless how oppressive the bearded idiots, this will collaps soon. I hope before the complete destruction of the Egypt due to civil war and outsiders interference a la Syria.

    April 2, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Reply
  28. Rami

    This guy thinks he is some hero , while we are trying to build our country people like you are spreading lies and rumours making it more complicated to get the political parties to get together , I do not support the Muslim brotherhood but its obvious from watching his show that he targets them 98 percent of the time

    April 2, 2013 at 7:29 pm | Reply
    • Mansour

      ( I do not support the Muslim brotherhood but) LOL typical phrase from MB member, always deny they are MB..really shame that your brotherhood are being hated from Egyptians. this is what ignorant leads you

      April 2, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Reply
  29. asaad erfan

    A quick look to the majority of the participants in here and whenever there is something about Egypt reveals the following: they are mostly Christians and or youngsters who were born during Mubarak's era. The first swab I can understand your malice, as for the second specimen who were born in degradation and disrespect , watch your mouth guys because someday you will be judged for you write or say if not in your life, it is in the hereafter.

    April 3, 2013 at 3:47 am | Reply
  30. ahmed

    We have to differentiate between freedom and accusing others , human freedom shouldn't hurt others , otherwise it shoudl stop

    April 3, 2013 at 8:09 am | Reply
  31. righter

    Kos om el ikhwan.

    April 3, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Reply
  32. ahmed

    he is an idiot and the media is making him hero,what people don't know that he is not funny at all

    April 3, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Reply
  33. Ahmed

    What all muslim brotherhood are saying is: "We liked Bassem when he was talking in favor of our side and mocking our enemies, but when he starts mocking us, he must go to Jail. We suddenly discovered that freedom of speech must be limited and restrained" Very pathetic people. They ignore and underestimate all country's problems (e.g. unemployment, inflation, decaying infra-structure, corruption, energy crisis,... ) and they only focus on prosecuting journalists and arresting bloggers.

    April 8, 2013 at 7:24 am | Reply
  34. Hadassa

    Bassem you are "The Man " all support and luck for you, people like you make a difference in the world for their courage

    June 28, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Reply

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