(photo credit: AP)
Campaigners for the release of Ayman Nour, imprisoned since 2005 on dubious charges of forgery by Egypt, have renewed their call for US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to expedite his release.
In the 2005 Egyptian presidential race, Nour was incumbent President Hosni Mubarak's leading opponent. Nour, at the time was a second-term Egyptian Parliament member, became the first chairman of the El Ghad party which, in 2004, received approval by the Egyptian government after three previous rejections.
The El Ghad party, whose slogan was "hand-in-hand we build tomorrow", sought to push a liberal, democratic agenda with a strong human rights focus, winning it both local and Western attention and support.
Egyptian law mandates that to found a political party, 50 powers of attorney must be obtained which can then be approved or rejected by the Parties' Affairs Committee. Charges filed against Nour stated that 1,435 of the 2,005 powers of attorney presented were fraudulent leading to his arrest in January of 2005.
Secretary Rice, upon receiving news of Nour's arrest, postponed a trip to Egypt to express her disapproval of what was widely condemned as a step backwards for Egyptian democracy.
Nour was soon after released on bail at which point he began anew his bid for the Egyptian presidency. After receiving between seven percent and 13 percent of the votes, Nour was re-imprisoned for a five-year sentence in December of 2005, leading to an international outcry in part due to Nour's diabetic dependence on insulin which Egyptian officials claimed was not life-threatening and therefore could not preclude Nour's sentencing.
Nour's sole opportunity for release would have to be a presidential pardon.
Rice had not made mention of Nour's case on this most recent visit to the Middle East which concluded Thursday evening.