Ayman Nour Should Be Freed; U.S. Should Reassert Need for Democratic Reform in Egypt

Washington, D.C.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice should urge the Egyptian government to release Ayman Nour, a former presidential candidate who has been in prison since shortly after his presidential campaign against President Hosni Mubarak in 2005.

Over the past few months, Nour has repeatedly requested a review of his case, declaring that his jail sentence is endangering his health. Yesterday, the Administrative Court declined a further review, saying that Nour’s condition is not life threatening. The decision comes as Secretary Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates are visiting Egypt to strengthen bilateral ties.

“This is not just the perpetuation of a crude vendetta against a peaceable critic of the regime; it is a slap in the face of the United States. We strongly urge Secretary Rice to raise Mr. Nour’s case with President Mubarak’s government,” said  Thomas O. Melia, deputy executive director of Freedom House. “There was a time when Dr. Rice and President Bush could persuade the Mubarak government to ease its grip on the political process. It is not clear to Egyptians and other observers the degree to which the U.S. even raises these issues anymore.”

Ayman Nour was first arrested in January 2005. At that time, Secretary Rice canceled a trip to Egypt in protest, eventually resulting in Mr. Nour’s release and allowing him to run in the September 2005 presidential elections. He finished a distant second to President Mubarak, but was soon sentenced to five years in jail on what are widely viewed to be trumped up charges. Mr. Nour is a diabetic and has undergone cardiovascular surgery while in prison.

Egypt ranks as Not Free in the 2007 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties. The country received a rating of 6 (on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the lowest) for political rights and a 5 for civil liberties, and was given a downward trend arrow in 2007, signaling negative trends that may result in even lower scores if expanded throughout the year.

Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in Egypt since 1972.

For more information on Egypt, visit:

Freedom in the World 2007: Egypt
Freedom of the Press 2007:  Egypt
Congressional Testimony, July 12, 2007: Ideals vs. Reality – Human Rights and US Foreign Policy: The Cases of Azerbaijan, Cuba, and Egypt

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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