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Egypt

Egyptian satirist released on bail after questioning

A popular Egyptian satirist has been released on bail after questioning over alleged defamation of Islam and the country’s president. The move has raised fears over freedom of speech under Egypt’s Islamist government.

Egyptian television satirist Bassem Youssef was released on bail Sunday after nearly five hours of questioning regarding allegations that he had insulted President Mohammed Morsi and Islam.

Youssef, who presented himself for questioning one day after the warrant was issued, was ordered to pay 15,000 Egyptian pounds (around $2,200 or 1,715 euros) pending investigation into the complaints. Several dozen supporters joined him outside the public prosecutor's office.

Youssef confirmed the bail conditions on Twitter, saying they amounted to three lawsuits. No date has yet been set for questioning into a fourth legal complaint.

Prominent Morsi critic

The prominent television personality first rose to fame after the uprising that swept Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011, with a satirical online show.

His show "ElBernameg" or "The Program," is now broadcast weekly on the private CBC Egyptian television station.

He is the most prominent critic of President Morsi to be called in for questioning in recent weeks, raising concerns about freedom of expression in post-Mubarak Egypt.

Egyptian liberal politician and opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei said via Twitter that the questioning was the kind of action only seen in "fascist regimes." "It is the continuation of the failed and ugly moves to thwart the revolution," he said.

Arrest warrants for activists

Youssef's questioning came after the prosecutor general issued five arrest warrants for prominent political activists accused of inciting violence against the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that propelled Morsi to power last year.

Youssef frequently imitates Morsi's speeches and gestures. In one episode earlier this year, Youssef exposed video clips of Morsi in 2010 where he called Zionists "pigs."

The remarks sparked a brief diplomatic row with the US administration, and Morsi issued a statement to defuse the situation.

hc/slk (Reuters, AFP, dpa)