Egypt’s Islamist government is “strongly committed” to freedom of expression, a presidential spokesman insisted Wednesday, distancing the administration from legal proceedings against a popular comedian.

The London-based Amnesty International, however, warned in a statement of an “alarming new escalation of politically-motivated judicial harassment and arrests” in Egypt.

Presidential spokesman Omar Amer said, “The presidency did not submit any complaints” to the prosecutor’s office.

The case of the comedian, questioned this week over accusations he insulted the president and Islam on his weekly TV show, has set off a wave of criticism from as far away as Washington.

Amer said President Mohammed Morsi’s office was not involved in the investigation.

“Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution, and there is a strong commitment toward it and there will be no deviation from that,” he said.