Middle East

Egypt ruling party slams US 'interference' over satirist

Popular Egyptian television satirist Bassem Youssef, who has come to be known as Egypt"s Jon Stewart, waves to is supporters as he enters Egypt"s state prosecutors office
Image caption Mr Youssef shot to fame after the 2011 revolution that ousted President Mubarak

Egypt's ruling Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) has accused the US of "interference" after it criticised legal action against a TV satirist.

Bassem Youssef was questioned on Sunday over allegations that he insulted President Mohamed Morsi and Islam.

Meanwhile, Mr Youssef said that another investigation had been started against him for his most recent show.

Later US Secretary of State John Kerry said there were "real concerns about the direction Egypt is moving in".

But Mr Kerry said he believed there was still "time for the promise" of the 2011 revolution to be met.

His comments come a day after US State Department Victoria Nuland said the case against Mr Youssef, "coupled with recent arrest warrants issued for other political activists, is evidence of a disturbing trend of growing restrictions on the freedom of expression".

The FJP said in statement that Ms Nuland's comments constituted "blatant interference" and meant that the US "welcomes and defends contempt of religion by the media".

While referring to "investigations of excessive antics by so-called satirist Bassem Youssef" the FJP went on to say it "reiterates and reaffirms its deep respect for freedom of opinion".

'Super Morsi'

Speaking after news of the fresh investigation against him, Mr Youssef said on Twitter: "Accusations include spreading rumours and disturbing the 'Peace'."

"It seems they want to drain us physically, emotionally and financially," he added.

Mr Youssef has faced several complaints over his show El Bernameg (The Programme), which satirises many public figures.

In some sketches, he has portrayed Mr Morsi as a pharaoh, calling him "Super Morsi" for holding on to executive and legislative powers.

Image caption Mr Youssef recently mocked the hat worn by Mr Morsi at a ceremony in Pakistan

This sketch, among others, angered one Islamist lawyer, whose formal complaint resulted in the current investigation.

As well as insulting Mr Morsi and Islam, Mr Youssef is also accused of "spreading false news with the aim of disrupting public order".

He was released on bail on Sunday, after questioning by prosecutors, and ordered to pay 15,000 Egyptian pounds ($2,190; £1,440).

At one point during his arrival at the prosecutor's office, Mr Youssef donned an oversized academic hat, mocking one which Mr Morsi wore recently when he received an honorary doctorate in Pakistan.

Licence warning

Mr Youssef is a doctor who shot to fame with his witty lampooning of public figures in amateur videos posted on the internet following the uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak's rule in February 2011.

He became a household name when his satirical show - likened to Jon Stewart's The Daily Show in the US - began to be broadcast once a week on CBC, one of Egypt's independent satellite stations.

Mr Stewart used the most recent edition of the Daily Show to express his support for Mr Youssef.

Egypt's al-Watan newspaper reported on Monday that the state body responsible for awarding broadcasting licenses had threatened CBC with the withdrawal of its licence if it continued to broadcast El-Bernameg.

However, the deputy head of the body Abd al-Moneim al-Alfy told al-Dustur newspaper that the channel had not been threatened with closure but had been warned "that one of the programmes on its screens had violated the terms of its licence".