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Dublin: 24°C Wednesday 10 August 2022

Egyptian TV host denies inciting attacks on president

The flamboyant Tawfiq Okasha is accused of prompting an attack that killed 16 soldiers; he denies the claims.

Tawfiq Okasha flashes the victory sign as he arrives in court in Cairo yesterday.
Tawfiq Okasha flashes the victory sign as he arrives in court in Cairo yesterday.
Image: AP Photo/Mohammed Assad

THE TRIAL HAS BEGUN of a popular Egyptian TV presenter who is accused of inciting the murder of the country’s new president while broadcasting live on air.

Tawfiq Okasha denies the charges, saying the case against him was part of a political row. Okasha said on air that it was permissible to shed President Mohammed Morsi’s blood.

According to Egypt’s Middle East News Agency, the prosecutor in the trial accused Okasha of using his TV programme in July and August to incite the killing of Morsi, and of insulting him by calling him an “illegitimate leader and a liar.”

Okasha denied the charges and said it was part of a political row between him and the Muslim Brotherhood group. If convicted, Okasha can face up to three years in prison.

The charges came after Okasha launched an on-air tirade against Morsi, blaming him for an August 5 attack by presumed Islamic militants who killed 16 Egyptian soldiers in Sinai.

Okasha warned Morsi not to attend the soldiers’ funeral for his own safety. He claimed the Brotherhood and Morsi plan to kill him and retorted, “Fine, I declare it permissible to shed your blood too.”

“You don’t know what I have. I have beasts and lions behind me,” he said, addressing Morsi and the Islamist group. “If you don’t control yourselves, I’ll put it all to the torch.”

Flamboyant anti-hero

The flamboyant Okasha has emerged over the past months as one of the most popular media personalities in the country. He denounces almost everybody – starting with the uprising that forced former President Hosni Mubarak to step down, the youth groups behind it, the military, the Freemasons and now the Islamists.

His show attracted wide viewership – partially because of his personal antics where he mixes humour, rural slang and simple language with claims to have definitive information and intelligence about some of the country’s most pressing issues. His attacks on the Islamists escalated after Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, was declared the winner in the country’s first democratic elections.

The case against Okasha is one of several lawsuits brought mainly by Egypt’s Islamists against journalists, accusing them of inflammatory coverage and inciting the public against the Brotherhood, the country’s largest political group.

The legal battles are drawing mixed reactions from pro-democracy groups, many of whom defend the right of free expression, denounce imprisonment of journalists and deem the Islamists’ practices as repressive. Others side with the Islamists and accuse journalists facing trials of spreading propaganda in the service of former regime loyalists.

Okasha told reporters yesterday that his comments were taken out of context and that he was responding to threats he and his mother had received. MENA said the judges postponed the trial to October 3.

The station owned by Okasha, Al-Faraeen (‘The Pharaohs’) was taken off the air since the case was filed against him last month.

- Sarah El Deeb

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Associated Press

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