Islamists accuse U.S. of interference in Egyptian affairs

CAIRO Tue Apr 2, 2013 7:44pm EDT

Bassem Youssef (C), the country's best-known satirist, gestures to journalists and activists as he arrives at the high court to appear at the prosecutor's office in Cairo March 31, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Bassem Youssef (C), the country's best-known satirist, gestures to journalists and activists as he arrives at the high court to appear at the prosecutor's office in Cairo March 31, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

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CAIRO (Reuters) - President Mohamed Mursi's Islamist allies accused the United States on Tuesday of blatant interference in Egypt's affairs after Washington said Cairo was muzzling freedom of speech.

On Monday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland criticized the questioning of the most popular Egyptian television satirist over allegations that he insulted Mursi and Islam.

Bassem Youssef, who rose to fame with a satirical online show after the uprising that swept Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011, turned himself in on Sunday after the prosecutor general issued an arrest warrant for the comedian.

The Justice and Freedom Party, political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, condemned the comments from Nuland and said the government was committed to freedom of expression. "Nuland's statements are ... blatantly interfering in Egypt's internal affairs," a party statement said.

In Washington, Nuland said her remarks on Monday represented the views of the U.S. government and "we stand by those views as articulated here yesterday."

"Our point here yesterday was to say that rule of law needs to be applied appropriately in all circumstances," she told reporters at her daily news briefing.

"So no, we reject the notion that we were interfering."

Youssef, whose program is now on television and has been compared to U.S. satirist Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show", is accused of insulting Islam and undermining Mursi's standing.

The prosecutor general issued the warrant after at least four legal complaints filed by supporters of Mursi, an Islamist who was freely elected in June.

In what seemed a gesture of defiance, Youssef arrived at the prosecutor general's office wearing an oversized graduation hat modeled on one donned by Mursi when he was awarded an honorary degree in Pakistan in March. He was later released on bail of 15,000 Egyptian pounds ($2,200).

Nuland said on Monday Egyptian authorities seemed to be selectively prosecuting those accused of insulting the government while ignoring or playing down attacks on anti-government protesters and cases of "extreme police brutality".

The U.S. view is important in part because Washington provides $1.3 billion per year in military aid to Cairo.

Egypt has been in a state of political turmoil since the ouster of Mubarak, a long-time U.S. ally. Political uncertainty and growing street crime have deterred tourism, long an important driver of the Egyptian economy.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; additional reporting by Paul Eckert in Washington; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (2)
gemini51 wrote:
What would Islamists, North Koreans, and Latin American socialist dictatorships do without the U.S. on which to blame things? Radical Islam has made it clear that they do not see their brand of Islam as compatible with democracy, free speech, or other basic human rights. Say goodbye to freedom Egypt. So many good people suffered to get rid of one repressive form of government, only to find another, potentially more repressive government replacing it.

Apr 02, 2013 4:42pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
bobber1956 wrote:
Give us billions of dollars but don’t interfere in our affairs? I think it is time to end an affair-between the US and Eqypt. I guess I mean between obama and mursi. NO MORE MONEY FOR EITHER FIRE THE BUM.

Apr 02, 2013 4:42pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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