Court denies Nur’s bid for freedom

CAIRO (AFP) — An Egyptian court rejected on Thursday a bid by opposition leader Ayman Nur to be released from prison on medical grounds, despite his claims that his health has worsened since he was jailed.

Judge Adel Abdul Salam Gomaa, president of the court of assizes, announced his decision without giving any explanation.

On May 22, an administrative court postponed a ruling on Nur, an insulin-dependant diabetic who has been held for more than a year, pending a medical examination.

Nur was jailed in December 2005, three months after coming a distant second in the country’s first ever multicandidate presidential election, in which he mounted a daring campaign against veteran President Hosni Mubarak.

He is serving a five-year sentence for forging affidavits needed to set up his Ghad Party. Nur’s lawyer Amir Salem told AFP he was pursuing a dual track in his appeal. One was before the same court that convicted his client, the court of assizes, and another before the administrative court, which examines procedure, technicalities and constitutionality leading to convictions.

Salem said before the ruling that if it were positive, Nur “will get out in order to be treated, but he could be put back in jail at any time”.  In the May 22 hearing, the judge announced that a committee of medical experts appointed by the ministry of justice would carry out further tests on Nur before giving its decision on June 12.

In February, a committee of government-appointed experts, made up of members of the medical profession and the prison authority, concluded he was fit enough to serve out his jail sentence.

But Nur appealed and has repeatedly claimed he was not receiving proper medical care in prison.

“I’m losing my eyesight, I have cardiac problems, I have terrible headaches and my bruises and wounds don’t heal,” he said in a January interview with AFP, showing two open wounds on his legs he said he suffered when he fell a month earlier.

Nur said he had gone from being a victim of “political assassination” to being subjected to “physical destruction”, insisting the regime wanted him to die behind bars.

Nur’s wife Gamila Ismail had said earlier on Thursday that she was cautiously optimistic of a favourable verdict.

“Nothing is certain, nor does it offer enormous optimism, but this time I have brought my son to court and perhaps this time we will have good news,” she told AFP.

The United States was sharply critical of Nur’s arrest and has repeatedly called for his release.

Nur formed his party in October 2004 with a view to contesting the presidential polls, but he was swiftly stripped of his parliamentary immunity and charged with forging affidavits needed to set up the party.

His January 2005 arrest prompted US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to cancel a trip to Egypt in protest, and US pressure eventually obtained Nur’s release on bail in March of that year, allowing him to run in the elections.

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