Subject to smears
The Al-Ghad Party chairman is determined to contest the presidential elections despite his forthcoming trial
The trial of Ayman Nour, MP and chairman of the liberal Al-Ghad Party, will begin on 28 June, reports Mona El-Nahhas. The date was announced on Saturday, four days after the Prosecutor- General Maher Abdel-Wahed referred Nour, together with six other employees, to the Cairo Criminal Court.
Abdel-Wahed's decision effectively bans Nour from travelling abroad. It is a prohibition, Nour says, intended to prevent him from participating in a conference organised by the European parliament in Brussels and scheduled for 31 March. Nour had been invited to address the conference on freedom and parliamentary immunity.
Nour was arrested in January and stands accused of forging 1,435 applications for membership of Al- Ghad, licensed last October. A few hours before his arrest Nour was stripped of his parliamentary immunity, though he remains an MP and retains the right to attend sessions of the People's Assembly.
Official insistence that the case against Nour is criminal and not politically motivated has been met with scepticism from the public, many of whom view the case as an attempt by the state to silence the outspoken activist.
Nour has repeatedly said he will run in September's presidential elections, and according to his lawyers the trial will not prevent him from practising any of his political rights, including the right to contest Egypt's first multi-candidate presidential elections.
"Nour will start the necessary nomination measures as soon as the People's Assembly defines the regulations and conditions required for nomination," said Amir Salem, Nour's lawyer. "In the eyes of the law Nour remains innocent until a court finds against him. It is only in the event of a conviction that Nour would be unable to complete the nomination process."
Following Nour's release on LE10,000 bail his lawyers had hoped the prosecutor-general would drop any charges against him on the basis of insufficient evidence. That this has not happened, Salem told Al-Ahram Weekly, suggests that the case against his client is politically motivated.
Nour has no doubt that the court will rule in his favour. "That is why," he says, "the state was keen on delaying the date of the first hearing."
"Their aim is to break Nour by suspending the case in this way. They will try and confuse the public, who may be reluctant to vote for Nour in the elections while the case is still outstanding," says Salem.
Sources close to Nour suggest that his intention to turn the trial into a political investigation into the practices of the regime could well lie behind the delayed date of the hearing.
Last week Nour vowed to "expose all of those who forged the will of the nation" during half a century of elections in Egypt.
His defence team has said that they will seek the testimony of former ministers of the interior on the rigging of elections.
"In addition to seeking to prolong the legal proceedings the National Democratic Party (NDP) has started a ferocious smear campaign against Nour," says the MP's wife, TV presenter Gamila Ismail.
"They are attempting to besmirch his reputation in advance of the elections," she said.
Last week, following the issue of the prosecutor-general's decree, Nour's Bab Al-She'reya constituency was awash with leaflets and banners accusing Nour of being a US agent.
"It's hardly credible that the people of Bab Al- She'reya, who turned out in such numbers to vote for Nour in the last parliamentary elections, are responsible for the leaflets," says his wife. "After failing to convince the public of the forgery allegations they are now launching a smear campaign, using certain newspapers, in the hope of reducing his and his party's popularity."
It is a campaign, Nour believes, that is destined to fail. "The people," he has said more than once, "are smart enough to know who the real US agents are."