Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Mirette Mabrouk in the Daily Star on the prosecution of Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour.
Nour, the head of Al-Ghad party was charged earlier this year with falsifying signatures needed to gain legal recognition for his party. His trial began on June 28 and in a singularly unfortunate case of miscasting, the judge appointed was Adel Abd al-Salam Gomaa, who in 2002 gained international fame as the person who found American University in Cairo professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim guilty of "damaging Egypt's reputation abroad." One would have thought that the subsequent international hoopla over that trial then - and the ensuing embarrassment - would have set off warning bells among Egyptian officialdom. Apparently not.

This Nour trial did not start auspiciously. Seven people were tried along with him, five of whom alleged Nour had pressured them into forging the signatures; another was tried in absentia; and the seventh later retracted his statement two days into the trial, clearing Nour. He claimed that state security agents had pressured him into lying about the case. It took two attempts before Gomaa agreed to place the retraction in the record.

Gomaa refused to grant defense requests for access to important documents, among them the allegedly forged signatures. The defense also railed against the judge's initial refusal to allow them to subpoena an official of the Public Audit Bureau who had been seen discussing plans with another defendant to "entrap Nour in the forgery scheme," according to a Human Rights Watch report.

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