Egypt court tosses case against Bassem Youssef

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CAIRO -- A Cairo court yesterday 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 Jon Stewart-inspired show, but the ruling may set a precedent.

The comedian has been in the international spotlight since Egyptian authorities brought him in for questioning this week in a separate case over the same accusations, a move that prompted criticism from as far away as Washington.

On his show, Youssef frequently satirizes President Mohammed Morsi's policies and 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.

Morsi's office said earlier this 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."

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 deeply polarized Egypt.

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