CAIRO: A government medical committee has ruled that jailed opposition leader Ayman Nour, a diabetic who has heart problems, should stay in prison. The committee found Nour s health was not in danger so long as he takes his medication and meals regularly, and it declined to recommend to prosecutors that he be freed early on medical grounds, a member of the team told Reuters on Thursday. Nour s wife Gameela Ismail said she was in shock and called the committee s finding politically-motivated.
Nour came a distant second to President Hosni Mubarak in the first multi-candidate presidential election in 2005. He was sentenced to five years in jail in December of that year on charges of forging signatures to found his opposition Ghad party.
Kamal el-Saadany, one of three members of the government medical team that looked into Nour s health, said: We sent him to Cairo University hospital and they examined him for all his complaints. The result was that his health is OK.
We took the decision all of us together, the same decision. There was no pressure at all. There are many cases in the prison just like Ayman Nour s, and many cases more dangerous than Ayman Nour s.
Nour, 42, says the criminal charges were fabricated to keep him out of political life. He campaigned against President Mubarak on a liberal secular platform and won 8 percent of the vote.
Egypt has come under Western pressure over Nour s imprisonment. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on Egypt to release him on Wednesday ahead of a meeting with Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
Egyptian rights groups say Nour s health has seriously deteriorated since a cardiac catheterisation procedure in a Cairo hospital on Dec. 18, aimed at finding out whether Nour needed heart surgery or stents to hold his arteries open.
Ismail has said her husband had an irregular heartbeat and had developed knee problems in prison that limited his mobility and required surgery.
It was actually a big shock to us. We know it is a political decision but … we never expected that they will say this medically, she said. Nour told her of the decision during a prison visit earlier this week.
I want to ask him (Nour): Do you want us to appeal against this decision or not? I know that an appeal will do nothing.
She said Nour s extended family appealed last month to the President to release Nour or let him serve his jail time in hospital until his health recovered. She said she had not signed up to that appeal.
Ismail has said Nour would not seek a presidential pardon on principle because it would be humiliating to ask for clemency from the man he views as his chief political rival