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Monday, October 28, 2013

Legal Complaints Filed Against Comedian Bassem Youssef

Egyptian comedian and political satirist Bassem Youssef finally made a comeback this weekend, to mixed results. In the first new episode in four months of his wildly popular show El Barnameg (modeled on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show) Youssef extended criticism to both the Muslim Brotherhood (as was expected) and the Egyptian army and current interim government. He took a careful approach when criticizing General Abd el Fattah el Sisi, the powerful general who has developed a popular following in Egypt, and instead chose to focus more on criticizing his popularity among Egyptians. Nevertheless, several different political groups filed legal complaints about Youssef’s show after it was aired on Friday evening, accusing him of defaming the military. The channel which aired his show distanced itself from Youssef on Saturday in response to “largely disapproving” reactions to the show. Youssef is fairly used to negative reactions to his political satire; he was sued last year for his criticism of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood and was also briefly detained.

Constitutional Committee Votes

The 50-person committee assigned to draft the new Egyptian constitution started voting on various controversial articles yesterday, some of which may set Egypt’s course for the future in terms of religious and political freedoms. So far, the committee has voted to remove an article that regulates the building of new churches, a positive sign for Egypt’s minority Christian community, which makes up about ten percent of the population and suffers from discrimination. Today, the committee will vote on article 47 which deals with freedom of religion in Egyptian society.

Ex Army Officer Responsible for Assassination Attempt

Walid Badr, a 31-year-old former Egyptian army officer, was the man responsible for the suicide bomb attack targeting Egypt’s interior minister in early September, according to a video released by extremist group Ansar Beit Al Maqdis. The video shows the man (who later died in the attack) ranting about religion and why he is against the army and the Muslim Brotherhood. The interior minister escaped unscathed from the Heliopolis attack but one person died and 21 were injured. Badr was expelled from the Egyptian armed forces in 2005 for extremist views.

Egypt Cracks Down on Access to Gaza

Egypt’s interim government decided to close the Rafah border with the Gaza strip on Saturday and said it would remain closed indefinitely. Some have linked this to the recent revelation that Ansar Beit Al Maqdis, a group behind the assassination attempt on the Egyptian interior minister last month, operates in this region and may strike again. In other news, Hamas, which governs Gaza, said that the Egyptian government’s demolition of many of the smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt has led to a $230 million loss each month in Gaza’s economy. According to Hatem Oweida, Gaza’s deputy economic minister, Gaza’s unemployment rate will shoot to over 40 percent if the border crossing stays closed and the rest of the smuggling tunnels, which bring in construction equipment and materials, are destroyed.

Case Against ElBaradei Dismissed

Mohamed ElBaradei, the liberal politican who served as Egypt’s interim vice president for a short period of time before resigning in August, has had the court case against him dismissed. ElBaradei resigned in response to the army’s bloody dispersal of pro-Morsi protest on Aug. 16, which left over 600 people dead. Various political groups were quick to criticize ElBaradei for stepping down and a law professor attempted to sue him citing  a “betrayal of trust,”  but a judge in a Cairo court this weekend dismissed the lawsuit because it lacked sufficient grounds. ElBaradei, who fled to Austria after his resignation, remains in Europe.

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