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White House condemns conviction of Egyptian politician
White House condemns conviction of Egyptian politician
The U.S. government said Saturday that it was ’deeply troubled’ at the conviction of Egyptian politician Ayman Nour, the main opposition contender in September’s presidential elections.
Monday, December 26,2005 00:00
by DPA, Deutsche Presse-Agentur

 The U.S. government said Saturday that it was ’deeply troubled’ at the conviction of Egyptian politician Ayman Nour, the main opposition contender in September’s presidential elections.

’The conviction of Mr Nour ... calls into question Egypt’s commitment to democracy, freedom, and the rule of law,’ a statement from the White House said.

Earlier Saturday, a Cairo criminal court sentenced Nour, 41, to five years in prison on charges of forging documents used to found his political party which won a licence in October 2004.

Supporters of Nour said they had expected the guilty verdict, but claimed the five-year prison sentence was politically motivated.

’This is a political case to bring down Ayman Nour and the al- Ghad. We urge (his supporters) to remain steadfast,’ Ihab al-Kholi, part of the leadership of Nour’s al-Ghad (Tomorrow) Party and a member of the defence team, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Six other defendants were sentenced to between three and 10 years.

The defence team said it intended to appeal the verdicts at the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest court.

’Down with (Egyptian president) Hosny Mubarak!’ shouted Nour’s wife Gamila Ismail after the verdict was announced.

Ismail was one of the only supporters of the politician in the courtroom, where most of the seats were occupied by plainclothes police.

Ismail told the satellite news channel al-Arabiya that the guilty verdict had been expected, although Nour supporters had hoped it would turn out otherwise.

Nagi al-Otreifi, who is heading the party on Nour’s behalf, called the politician ’the only true opposition’ figure among the country’s political parties.

Opposition political parties were largely outshone in 2005 by movements like the banned but tolerated Moslem Brotherhood and the Egyptian Movement for Change, popularly known as Kefaya (Enough).

Opposition parties won only a handful of seats in parliamentary elections in November and December.

Some 300 Nour supporters and opposition activists protested outside the courtroom under the watchful eye of several hundred riot police.

After the pronouncing of the verdict, protestors marched to the court room in a main street in the district of Nasr City shouting anti-Mubarak slogans and ’null and void’ - as many did following the president’s re-election in September.

The protestors, who included members of the Kefaya, also sang the national anthem during their march. Approximately 50 Nour supporters and Kefaya members held an overnight protest outside the courtroom.

The non-governmental Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, in a statement, urged the court to suspend Nour’s sentence in view of his poor health after a more than week-long hunger strike ahead of the session in which the verdict was announced.

Nour came second in September’s presidential elections, Egypt’s first in which there was more than one candidate, taking some 7.5 per cent of the vote to the more than 88 per cent won by the incumbent Mubarak.

A member of parliament until November when he lost his seat to a candidate for the ruling National Democratic Party, Nour was charged after parliament lifted his immunity in January this year.

He was released in March on bail shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cancelled a visit to Egypt, but was taken into custody earlier in December ahead of the verdict.

Nour distinguished himself as an indomitable parliamentarian for the low income Cairo neighbourhood of Bab al-Shaariya from 1995.

His platform for the presidency focused around immediately cancelling restrictions on political life imposed by the 24-year-long state of emergency, thoroughgoing constitutional amendments that included curbing the overwhelming dominance of the presidency over parliament, and giving the unemployed a welfare benefit.

Nour’s case brings to mind that of Egyptian-American sociology professor Saadeddin Ibrahim whose case also attracted extensive criticism from the United States.

The liberal Ibrahim who had criticized the lack of democratization in Egypt was arrested in 2000 in conjunction with activities his research centre was doing ahead of that year’s parliamentary elections.

Ibrahim’s conviction in 2001 on charges that included tarnishing Egypt’s image and accepting money from a foreign government without approval from the government was subsequently overturned by a higher court.


 

tags: Ayman Nour / politics / state security / freedom / democracy / NDP
Posted in MB in International press  
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