Egypt Probes Company Over Alleged 'Terror Ad'

Egyptian prosecutors probing Vodafone over claims its advertisement contains coded messages calling for terrorist attacks.

Elad Benari ,


Egyptian prosecutors are probing Telecoms giant Vodafone over claims a company advertisement featuring a popular Muppet-like character contains coded messages calling for terrorist attacks, company executives said Thursday, according to AFP.

Vodafone Egypt says the advert, featuring the puppet Abla (Aunt) Fahita, is merely a marketing tool and has no hidden message or meaning.

The case stems from claims by a political activist who calls himself Ahmed Spider, who said, according to AFP, that next week's Coptic "Christmas day will be a bitter day because of explosions (planned) by anarchists with the help of (ousted president Mohammed) Morsi's supporters."

Copts, who make up the majority of Christians in Egypt, celebrate Christmas on January 7.

In his remarks to private television channel Tahrir, Spider said the four branches of a cactus used as a Christmas tree in the advert symbolize the four-finger Islamist salute used by Morsi's supporters.

Spider, an avid supporter of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, also said an ornamental ball dangling from the tree represents a bomb, while stuffed turkey breasts spoken of in the commercial symbolize "car bombs."

On Wednesday, prosecutors summoned Vodafone executives for questioning following the complaint, reported AFP.

"Our marketing director went with our lawyer to the prosecution," Noha Saad, head of Vodafone's public relations told the news agency on Thursday.

"The prosecution heard their statements in response to the complaint filed by Ahmed Spider. There were no accusations by the prosecution. They are in the phase of gathering information."

Speaking on another show broadcast by private television channel CBC, Spider also accused "British intelligence services" of being behind it all.

The advert is for an offer under which Vodafone customers can re-activate their old SIM cards.

A company statement said "any other explanations are pure fiction and personal opinions of some viewers and Vodafone is not liable for the personal attitudes and interpretations that are far from reality."

The latest controversy highlights the tense atmosphere prevailing in Egypt since the military ousted Morsi in July, following mass protests calling him to step down.

It also comes amid a volatile security situation, with Egypt shaken by nearly daily terrorist attacks on security forces in the restive Sinai Peninsula and an ongoing crackdown on Morsi's supporters.

The already tense situation in Egypt has deteriorated in the past week, since the Egyptian government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terror organization, sparking new tensions between the military and the Brotherhood's supporters.

On Tuesday, Egyptian officials seized the assets of at least 500 Brotherhood leaders. On Monday, three Al-Jazeera journalists were arrested on charges of meeting with Brotherhood officials. 

Egypt has also brought Hamas, the terror group which controls Gaza and is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, into the mix, and has accused it of being involved in the bombing of police headquarters in Mansoura last Monday that killed 16.