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Egyptian lawyers file complaint calling for satirist Bassem Youssef's citizenship to be revoked

Popular Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef talks during a news conference in Cairo on 2 June 2014
Popular Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef talks during a news conference in Cairo on 2 June 2014

REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Political "Hesba" lawsuits, cases filed by private parties in the name of protecting state interests, have strongly resurfaced in Egypt with the aim of gagging dissidents. Filed by some people just to satisfy the Egyptian government, the most recent victim of a "Hesba" lawsuit has been the renowned satirist Bassem Youssef for allegedly criticizing President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Media personality Khaled Abu Baker alleged via Twitter that Youssef had criticized and insulted the president during a chance meeting at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. While many people have denounced this calumny, some lawyers hurried to file a complaint against Youssef calling for the revocation of his Egyptian citizenship.

Youssef's case is strongly reminiscent of a similar lawsuit brought against Dr. Mohammed Elbaradei in 2011 calling for his citizenship to be withdrawn. Even though the court turned down the request, it left the door wide open for those seeking fame or to simply pander to the regime by filing lawsuits against critics of the government, which consequently raises doubts on whether the political will to respect the rule of law exists or not.

"Cases where fame seekers file these lawsuits in an attempt to flatter the regime are unacceptable and infringe on the rule of law," stated the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI). "When such cases are brought up as a result of slander, it indicates new evidence of the dramatic setback of freedoms in Egypt."

"The degradation of the values of some Egyptian media professionals to the extent where they resort to slander, regardless of the facts, is a matter that requires those media professionals to be ignored or suspended for fabricating or exaggerating violations allegedly committed by dissidents in Egypt," added ANHRI.

In addition to its solidarity with Satirist Bassem Youssef and its support for freedom of expression and the right to criticism, ANHRI urges the judiciary in Egypt to put a stop to the use of political and religious Hesba cases and to prevent any attempt to use the judicial system in political disputes as a type of retaliation against dissidents. This call comes in support of the rule of law and freedom of expression.

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