Egyptian prosecutors probe blogger's claim puppet ad hid bomb message for Muslim Brotherhood
Probe of blogger's claim that puppet in ad utters message on future Muslim Brotherhood attack
Prosecutors have questioned officials at a major Egyptian telecoms firm over an online advertisement featuring a puppet that a controversial blogger says delivers a coded message linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The bizarre accusations made against Vodafone Egypt's advert starring well-known puppet Abla Fahita come soon after the government designated the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation.
The government accused the Brotherhood of orchestrating a series of attacks by Sinai militants, but has provided little evidence to prove the connection. The Brotherhood denies the accusations.
Ahmed "Spider", a self-styled youth activist known as a strong supporter of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, says claimed a code about an upcoming attack was included within the advert.
In the ad, Fahita and her daughter Karkoura search for her dead husband's SIM card, while explaining to her friend over the phone about another character "Mama Touta". In the background, a radio anchor explains how to make "stuffed turkey" for Christmas while sitting next to a cactus from which ball ornaments dangle. She says she asked the building's guards to get a sniffer dog from a shopping mall to search for some missing items and gets money in return.
Spider claims the mall and the dog refer to a planned site for an attack, while "Mama Touta" is the Brotherhood's secret name.
"The dog, garage, guard, mall … these are elements that tell us that there will be a big mall and an explosion after a dog fails to find the bomb in a car," Spider said. He said he filed a complaint with Egypt's prosecutor general, who referred it to state security prosecutors, who handle terrorism and other political allegations.
Spider's lawyer said an ornament on the cactus referred to the bomb. The cactus has four branches referring to the Muslim Brotherhood's Rabaah sign, commemorating the victims of a deadly crackdown on a protest camp held next to Rabaah el-Adawiya mosque in eastern Cairo. Rabaah is Arabic for "fourth" and is also a name.
Vodafone said the prosecutors summoned company representatives and asked about the accusations, but did not make any claims themselves.
It described the accusations as "irrational". The advertisement was only for "marketing aiming at explaining how to reactivate a Vodafone sim card and attract audience to the product".
"The advertisement carries no other meaning and any other interpretation other than that is mere imagination or personal opinion," Vodafone said.