CAIRO (Reuters) – An Egyptian court refused to immediately release jailed Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour from prison on health grounds on Tuesday but asked for a panel of doctors to have another look at medical reports on his case.
The ruling by the Administrative Court dashed the hopes of Nour’s supporters, who were encouraged to read in the state newspaper al-Ahram on Tuesday morning that the court was expected to set him free after some 18 months in prison.
Some broke down in tears in the courtroom and others shouted out: “Down, down with (President) Hosni Mubarak”.
In December 2005 Nour, then leader of the liberal Ghad Party, began a five-year prison sentence, convicted of forging documents when he set up the party.
Nour, who came a distant second to President Hosni Mubarak in presidential elections in September 2005, says the case against him was fabricated to drive him out of politics.
An initial medical report on Nour said he had several serious health problems but could stay in prison if he received the right treatment and diet. Nour, 42, has both diabetes and heart problems.
The judges on Tuesday asked a committee of medical experts to examine the initial report and report back on June 12.
Nour’s lawyer, Amir Salem, said the court’s decision was a disappointment. “The al-Ahram report, for example, gave us a hint that the state had taken a political decision to free Ayman Nour … but this was deceptive,” he told reporters.
Nour’s wife, Gameela Ismail, said she objected to the way the court had linked Nour’s case with that of a drug dealer who is paralysed and who is also seeking release on health grounds.
“I’m sure that when Ayman Nour hears of this … he will be deeply aggrieved,” she told reporters.
The independent Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights said in a statement that Nour should be released because his health was deteriorating.
Nour won about eight percent of the popular vote in the 2005 elections, against 87 percent for Mubarak, but monitors and rights group said the voting was seriously flawed.
The United States initially campaigned openly for his release but visiting U.S. officials have stopped raising his case in public, except in response to questions.