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Egyptian TV satirist released after questioning

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 31, 2013 at 4:11 pm •  Published: March 31, 2013

The plaintiffs are mostly regular citizens, according to Shaimaa Abul-Kheir, a representative of the New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists who was allowed to attend the interrogation.

In remarks to a TV presenter on CBC, the private station that airs his program, Youssef said on Saturday that his program does not insult Islam but aims to expose those who "distort" it.

"We don't insult religion. What we do is expose those so-called religious and Islamic stations which have offended Islam more than anyone else," he said. "If anyone is to be investigated for insulting religions, it should be all those who use Islam as a weapon and a political tool to swallow the others using religion."

When asked if programs in Egypt should be less scathing than those of the West, Youssef said: "We will give (the West) an example of how freedoms are respected after the revolution," he said of the 2011 uprising that ousted longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.

After turning himself in for questioning, Youssef first tweeted a series of quips from the prosecutor's office.

"They asked me the color of my eyes. Really," one said.

A news broadcaster at a TV station affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, Misr 25, accused Youssef of "mocking" the investigation. His tweets later were erased and he wrote that some reports from inside the interrogation room were "incorrect."

Amr Moussa, a former presidential candidate, called the warrant for Youssef's arrest a "provocation to Egyptians who are known for their love of what is funny."

"There is nothing odious about criticizing the president," he said in an emailed statement. "This humanizes the president."

Gamal Eid, a rights lawyer, said accusing Youssef of insulting religion — as opposed to just the president — is a tactic aimed at increasing public sympathy for the investigation.

"The accusation of insulting religion would mobilize more people against him," Eid said.

Gamal Heshmat, a lawmaker from the Muslim Brotherhood's political party, dismissed the opposition's claims of an intimidation campaign as an "exaggeration," adding that many critics of Morsi and his group are responsible for instigating violence and "offending" many in the public.

"What is the problem with abiding by the law? No one was detained and there were no extra-legal measures," he told the AP, describing the media as "chaotic," with numerous attacks against Morsi but few prosecutions.

"It is offensive ... Let the judiciary decide," he said.

A prosecution official said Youssef was to pay a bail of 15,000 LE ($2,200), pending the completion of an investigation. Youssef tweeted that the bail is for three separate cases.

Eid, the rights lawyer, said the release on bail means all options are open.

"The prosecution could continue investigation, put the case aside or send it to trial."

Meanwhile, in Egypt's second largest city, Alexandria, 11 people detained on Saturday including five lawyers accused of attacking a police station were released without charges.