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Egyptian Satirist Threatened for Giving Police Condom Balloons

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    An Egyptian comedian who works as a correspondent for a popular satirical television program could be in legal trouble for handing balloons made of inflated condoms to police officers in Tahrir Square on Monday, the fifth anniversary of the uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak.

    Video of the prank showed the comedian, Shady Abu Zaid, and a young actor, Ahmed Malek, pretending to celebrate a national holiday in honor of Egypt’s police by giving unwitting officers the balloons. The video became a sensation on Facebook, where it was viewed more than 1.4 million times through Tuesday afternoon.

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    "لن تصدق ماذا قدموا للشرطة في ٢٥ يناير ٢٠١٦"

    نزلنا نحتفل بعيد الشرطة في عز البرد علشان محدش يزايد علينا."لن تصدق ماذا قدموا للشرطة في ٢٥ يناير ٢٠١٦"

    Posted by Shady H. AbuZaid on Monday, January 25, 2016

    Authorities had encouraged citizens to celebrate Police Day on Jan. 25, and they enforced a strict ban on antigovernment demonstrations. The revolution had started on that day five years ago with street protests driven largely by outrage over the impunity of the country’s police force.

    The two-minute video began with Mr. Abu Zaid’s crew inflating condoms as if they were balloons and writing a sarcastic message on them: “From the youth of Egypt to the police on Jan. 25.”

    Mr. Abu Zaid and Mr. Malek then joined the official celebration in Tahrir Square, kissing officers and posing for photos with them on the same ground where tens of thousands of Egyptians had fought pitched battles with the security forces five years ago.

    After the video was posted online and its satirical intentions were clear, a senior police officer asked prosecutors on Tuesday to charge the pranksters. Mr. Abu Zaid released a statement defending his right “to address social issues in a comedic way,” and complained of threats against him posted on a pro-police Facebook group.

    “The Constitution of the Republic of Egypt that was approved in 2014 explicitly protects the freedom of speech and creativity, and holds all bodies of state up to the duty of protecting those expressing their opinion and creativity, not to terrorize and threaten them with abduction and torture,” Mr. Abu Zaid said in the statement.

    On Saturday, two days before the anniversary of the Tahrir uprising, Mr. Abu Zaid had uploaded a documentary with images from the protests on that date in 2011 to his YouTube channel.

    A statement issued by the television show to which Mr. Abu Zaid contributes denounced his prank as “insulting and unacceptable.” The satirical program is hosted by a puppet named Abla Fahita, who two years ago was the subject of a bizarre investigation by prosecutors after a pro-military blogger accused the puppet of sending coded messages to Islamist terrorists in an ad for a mobile phone company.

    For his part, Mr. Malek, who was sanctioned by Egypt’s actors guild, said that he wished to “apologize to everyone who saw the video as offensive,” according to Mada Masr, an independent news site.

    “I am 20 years old and sometimes at that age ideas precede rational thinking,” he said.

    The actor also said that the prank was motivated by “frustration with the inability of my generation to express our opinions.” Still, Mr. Malek said, “that does not give me the right to infringe upon others.”

    “What annoys me most,” he concluded, “is that the video will be used to tarnish the revolution; and if it happens, I am the only one to blame.”


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