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Egyptian satirist returns to TV

Egypt's popular satirist Bassem Youssef was back on air yesterday for the first time since he was suspended last November.

He stayed true to his style of mocking the nationalist fervour gripping Egyptians after the overthrow of the country's Islamist leader in a coup last July and the subsequent euphoria surrounding the military chief widely expected to run for president.

Mr Youssef - often compared to the US comedian Jon Stewart - once again made fun of his fellow Egyptians' obsession with Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who became the most popular man in the country after ousting Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Last autumn, private broadcaster CBC suspended Mr Youssef's show after the season's first episode.

At the time, CBC said the satirist had violated its editorial policy and contractual obligations, and that he upset Egyptian sensibilities by attacking "symbols of the state".

Egyptian government and presidential officials said the decision was a private issue between Mr Youssef and the station.

Mr Youssef was accused by others in the pro-military media as being a traitor, a part of a foreign plan made against Egypt and a hidden support to the Muslim Brotherhood, from which the ousted Mr Morsi hails.

Back late last night on the MBC Egypt channel, Mr Youssef joked about his comeback, saying it could well be the "first and the last episode in the new season" if he dared poke fun at Mr el-Sissi - building up suspense among viewers whether he would dare do it again or not.

He described his new, revamped Al Bernameg show as "the show which has nothing to do with politics and tackles anything else so as not to mention him (el-Sissi) and lose our jobs".

Mr Youssef jabbed at Egyptian fashion and cooking shows, some of which seem to go out of their way to mention Mr el-Sissy in the programmes.

He made a joke about street vendors selling clothes "autographed by el-Sissy" and a popular chef attempting to bake a birthday cake for the military commander.

"Politics is everywhere, and if we leave it to talk about anything else, then we are making fools of ourselves," he said.

Mr Youssef's programme has often stirred controversies, making him the target of many legal complaints. The authorities investigated him over the last episode on charges of disrupting public order and insulting Egypt and military leaders.

His popularity peaked during Mr Morsi's rule, when he targeted him and his Islamist allies with weekly mockery for mixing religion and politics.

Mr Youssef was briefly detained and released on bail under Mr Morsi on accusations of insulting the president and Islam.


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