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Egypt crackdown complaint against Nobel laureate tossed out by judge

October 26, 2013|By Laura King
  • Mohamed El Baradei speaks to journalists an international conference on the global economy in Estoril, Portugal, in May 2011.
Mohamed El Baradei speaks to journalists an international conference… (Jose Sena Goulao / EPA )

CAIRO - An Egyptian judge Saturday threw out a legal complaint against Nobel laureate and prominent former diplomat Mohamed El Baradei, who had been accused of breaching the public trust for quitting as vice president to protest a violent crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

The case had illustrated the extreme sensitivities surrounding any criticism of the army and the country’s military-backed government in the wake of the July overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and a subsequent bloody dispersal of his followers. Up to 1,000 demonstrators were killed by Egyptian security forces who charged into Brotherhood-backed protest camps.

El Baradei had publicly supported deposing Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, but balked at the crackdown, which human rights groups have described as the biggest unlawful mass killing in modern Egyptian history. El Baradei resigned on Aug. 14, triggering a concerted campaign of vilification against him in official media.

In Saturday’s ruling, the judge cited insufficient grounds for accusing El Baradei, who is a former head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency and shared a Nobel peace prize with the U.N. body in 2005. The ex-diplomat was not present for the court session, and was said to be out of the country.

The case had been initiated by a law professor, Sayyid Al-Ateeq, who is a bitter opponent of Morsi. In Egypt, individuals are allowed to ask the prosecutor to investigate another individual, with the aim of bringing a case against them.

Another high-profile figure to run afoul of the law is comedian Bassem Youssef, whose popular political satire show returned to the air Friday night. Youssef, back for the first time since Morsi was ousted, mocked the cult of personality surrounding army chief Abdel Fattah Sisi. In one skit, he pretended to be terrified by a chocolatier’s bellicose response when he declined a sweet imprinted with the general’s face -- Sisi-themed desserts are in fact sold in Cairo.

Youssef said beforehand that he expected to face legal action for his latest comedic venture, and he was right. The public prosecutor Saturday received a complaint accusing him of defamation and harming national security.

Some irate viewers took to social media to chastise Youssef and lionize Sisi, whose backers are urging him to run for president. Most political observers think he would win.

Previously, Youssef was best known for scathing satire targeting Morsi, which resulted in his arrest earlier this year for insulting the presidency. Admirers of Youssef, including American satirist Jon Stewart, rallied to the comic’s defense, and the charges were eventually dropped.

Meanwhile, the militant group Ansar Jerusalem on Saturday brought a claim that could roil the ranks of Egypt’s powerful army. The group said on its website that it had been able to recruit a former military man to carry out an attempted assassination of the country’s interior minister last month.

The military declined to comment on the claim. Ansar Jerusalem, which has links to Al Qaeda, had already asserted responsibility for the bombing in Cairo. The minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, survived the attack.

Concern about potential Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers in the ranks of the army has been a matter of quiet but urgent concern for military commanders, who have made public appeals for religiously conservative troops to remain loyal to the government.


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