CAIRO (Reuters) - The owner of an Egyptian TV channel that satirizes the Islamist president was accused of tax evasion and banned from leaving the country on Thursday, hours after Mohamed Mursi attacked him by name in a keynote speech.
“This is dictatorship,” a lawyer for business tycoon Mohamed al-Amin told Reuters. Amin’s CBC channel has had legal run-ins before over its ridicule of President Mursi on a hit satirical program modeled on American comic Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show”.
Stewart appeared in person just last week as a guest of Bassem Youssef, the host of the weekly broadcast, who himself has been investigated for insulting the president and Islam.
In an address to the nation on Wednesday to defend himself against opponents who plan mass rallies this weekend, Mursi blamed loyalists of fallen dictator Hosni Mubarak for thwarting his first year in office. He denounced several figures by name, including judges and owners of media organizations.
“Some dream of the return of the old regime, like Mohamed al-Amin,” Mursi said. “They will not be left in peace until they pay what they owe the nation in taxes.”
Hours later, Amin, who also owns anti-government newspaper Elwatan, called in to a CBC show to deny any wrongdoing.
State news agency MENA said prosecutors had blocked Amin’s movements while it probed suspected tax arrears of about $60 million. Officials were not immediately available for comment.
His lawyer Mohamed Hammouda called the legal move an attempt to “get him and get the CBC channel and Elwatan newspaper and force them to bend to the president’s will”. He said he would seek to get the travel ban lifted and would sue Mursi for defamation.
“This is dictatorship of a kind Egypt has never seen before,” lawyer Hammouda said. “And an attempt to get to rivals using force, and we do not accept that.”
Separately, a judicial source said a warrant was issued for the arrest of another television personality critical of Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood, talk-show host Tawfiq Okasha. The grounds for the investigation was spreading false information.
Familiar for his on-air diatribes against Islamists, Okasha has been at liberty to work pending an appeal against a four-month sentence handed down for insulting Mursi.
Additional reporting by Yasmine Saleh; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Pravin Char