CAIRO: Hopes and expectations were dashed Tuesday as it became evident that incarcerated lawyer and former presidential candidate Ayman Nour would not be released mid-sentence.
Supporters and family members of cult-figure and former presidential candidate were hoping that Nour would be pardoned from serving the remaining two and a half years of a five-year sentence.
According to a legal custom that celebrates the 1952 revolution, on July 23 the Egyptian president pardons prisoners who have shown good behavior and have served half their time.
However, there are some crimes, including drug dealing, which are considered exceptions to the pardon. The list of pardonable crimes are not fixed by a standard law, but can be altered according to presidential decision.
According to lawyer Amir Salem, in 2002 under pressure from Israel to release spy Azzam Azzam, forgery was removed from the list of pardonable crimes, and espionage was added.
In January 2005, Nour was sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly forging powers of attorney required to establish Al-Ghad party. Party members believe the pardonable offenses list was altered to suit a government agenda in ensuring the continuous incarceration of Nour.
“This is proof that the government, and the president himself, see Nour as a real threat, because he is a real alternative, Ayman Barakat, Ghad member, announced to a press conference held in the party’s headquarters Monday evening.
Nour himself issued a letter from his cell addressed to the president, saying, “The presidential decree lacks justification, claiming that exceptions to the pardon are determined on whether they are ‘dangerous.’ The decree pardons those who are sentenced for murder, torture and espionage.
Nour claims that the president can no longer claim he does not interfere in the judicial system, since the custom of releasing prisoners is an established tradition that has become part of Egyptian law.
He wrote, “I am now being imprisoned at the president’s whim.
Supporters of incarcerated politician and lawyer Ayman Nour were threatened with Tuesday, as they waited to visit him in Tora Prison.
The group of around 15 party members and friends made their way to the prison to visit the founder of the Ghad Party on the eve of the July 23 national holiday. Although it is not customary for large groups to visit prisoners, the prison makes an exception for holiday visits.
However, visitors were faced with a strong security barricade which surrounded them before mounting arrests.
“We were the first group to arrive at the prison at 10 am, but when we got there, nobody was there except security forces, Ghad journalist and party member Yasmine Abdel Aziz told Daily News Egypt, “they had surrounded the prison in a strange way, and we recognized the officers who had dealt with protests in Cairo. It’s as if they knew we were coming.
According to Abdel Aziz, security went on to surround the group and were threatened with arrest should they refuse to leave.
“We crossed over to the other side of the road to keep our distance, but found they had surrounded us and cordoned us off. They then brought an empty microbus and tried to force us inside.
She told Daily News Egypt that security forced the male visitors into a truck, while they cordoned off the girls.
“We told them we wouldn’t leave unless the men were taken off the police trucks and came back to Cairo with us in the microbus.
Security forces eventually allowed the men to travel back to Cairo in the microbus. However, on the way back, they were taken from the bus and forced into police trucks, where they were taken to New Cairo and thrown out on the road.
Gamila Ismail, Nour’s wife, told press that she hopes her husband will be released next July. According to Egyptian law, if prisoners have served three quarters of their sentence, they can be released on good behavior.