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Facing jail for jokes: crackdown means ‘revolution's hopes destroyed’

April 3rd, 2013
05:35 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

For two veteran Egypt observers, it is abundantly clear that the government’s crackdown on satirist Bassem Youssef is coming directly from the top, President Mohamed Morsy.

“To say that Morsy is not behind the persecution and prosecution of Bassem Youssef is, I think, nuts,” Journalist Christopher Dickey, currently the Middle East editor for Newsweek Magazine, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

Hossam Bahgat, founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, agreed, and said that the complaints themselves came from Morsy.

“The majority of complaints for insulting the president were formally filed by the office of the president,” he said.

Morsy’s office has claimed that the judiciary is completely independent.

The crackdown, Dickey and Bahgat said, is a disturbingly familiar sight.

“This is straight out of the Mubarak playbook,” Bahgat said. “That’s exactly what he used to do.”

“It really does look more like Mubarak all the time,” Dickey chimed in. “It’s really stunning.”

Youssef, who is known as the “Jon Stewart of Egypt,” was questioned by the public prosecutor for five hours on Sunday over complaints that he had insulted the president and Islam on his weekly show, El Bernameg (“The Program”).

The prosecutor claimed that he was simply doing his job, by investigating complaints levied by the public.

Youssef’s saga led to a diplomatic scandal of true twenty-first century proportions on Wednesday.


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