The punches keep coming
After last week's rejection of his appeal, Ayman Nour's political career will be on hold for at least a decade, reports Mona El-Nahhas
The Court of Cassation last week rejected an appeal by Ayman Nour contesting his five-year jail sentence for forgery. Nour was sentenced last December by the Criminal Court.
Following the 18 May ruling Nour's wife and spokeswoman Gamila Ismail wept and hugged their young son Nour as she described the verdict as unfair. "I hope God gives him the patience to endure," she told reporters.
The decision by Egypt's highest judicial body dashed Nour's chances to prove his innocence and dealt a crushing blow to any political aspirations he may have. The former leader of the liberal Ghad Party -- who came second to President Hosni Mubarak in last year's presidential elections -- will be effectively banned from political life.
Nour's only chance to overturn his prison sentence now is a presidential pardon, though the sentence will remain on his records. Nour has said before that he will not petition those who wronged him for a pardon, though deteriorating health may yet cause him to change his mind.
Whether he is released early or not, for Nour to resume his political career he will need to file a rehabilitation suit six years after his jail sentence ends, making it impossible for him to contest the 2011 presidential elections. That, according to political analyst Mustafa Kamel El-Sayed, "clears the way for President Mubarak's successor".
Nour's supporters and defence team were shocked by last week's ruling. The court had been expected to consider a recent report by the Cassation Prosecutor recommending a retrial. But according to defence lawyers the Court of Cassation did not even look at the 215-page report which concluded that the case against Nour was weak.
"The ruling is evidence of Mubarak's determination to silence any voice that calls for reform," said Ismail during a press conference held at the headquarters of the Ghad Party following the ruling. She urged politicians and activists to continue their march towards change and reform.
While Nour's presence enriched the political scene, says El-Sayed, his absence will not halt calls for political reform.
"The recent confrontation between the state and the judges has demonstrated to all political forces that reform will only come about through perseverance and continued mass mobilisation," El-Sayed told Al-Ahram Weekly.
The US administration described the rejections of Nour's appeal as "representing both a miscarriage of justice by international standards, and a setback for the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people". In response the Foreign Ministry argued that US criticisms "infringed on the rulings and independence of the Egyptian judiciary".
The US State Department, through spokesman Sean McCormack, clarified that the criticism was directed not at the Court of Cassation, but at the Egyptian government for prosecuting Nour in the first place.
Nagui El-Ghatrifi, acting chairman of the Ghad Party, said the party would not allow Nour's case to become a factor in the equation of Egyptian-US relations, which are governed by the weighing of national interests.
El-Ghatrifi, a former diplomat, vowed that the Ghad Party would continue the path Nour had steered towards reform and change. His statements came amid rumours that, in the absence of its founder, the party is considering a merger with the liberal Wafd Party.
The acting chairman also announced that Nour's defence team will seek to sue the panel at the Court of Cassation over the ruling.
According to Atef El-Banna, professor of constitutional law, if the suit succeeds, Nour will receive monetary compensation and his sentence dropped.
Nour's defence team will now seek to have the case referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Amir Salem, head of the team, revealed that a delegation from the European Parliament -- which has shown solidarity with Nour from the beginning -- will begin a European tour in Rome, and end at the headquarters of the ICC in the Netherlands, in an attempt to pressure the court into accepting Nour's case.