A GROUP of opposition and independent MPs organised a sit-in on Sunday to protest against what they called the "continued Israeli and American aggression against the Lebanese and Palestinian people." They also called upon the Egyptian government to exert pressure on Israel to release a number of Palestinian MPs and cabinet ministers detained one month ago.
The 25 or so leftist and Muslim Brotherhood MPs suggested this could come through moving to freeze the membership of Israel in the International Union of Parliaments and the Euro-Mediterranean Parliament. Also, recalling the Egyptian ambassador to Tel Aviv. The protesters also wanted the government to freeze the Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZ) agreement with Israel.
Speaking to reporters during the 15 minute sit-in, the disgruntled MPs strongly criticised Egypt's official position towards Israel's aggression against Lebanon, hailing the resistance of the Lebanese Hizbullah militia and its leader Hassan Nasrallah. They warned that the US was moving by leaps and bounds to impose its hegemony on Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, Somalia and Iraq.
Appeal for pardon
THE FAMILY of Ayman Nour, the jailed leader of the Ghad Party, called upon political activists to lobby for his release through a presidential pardon, reports Mona El-Nahhas. The appeal came in a statement released on the anniversary of last year's presidential elections, in which Nour came second to president Mubarak in the first multi-candidate presidential elections.
After losing all his appeals, a presidential pardon is the only way Nour can terminate his jail sentence. He was sentenced to five years in jail last December on charges of forging signatures to found his liberal opposition Ghad Party. The charges were described by Nour as being "fabricated" and aimed at curbing his political future.
Several months ago, around 110 MPs appealed to President Mubarak to pardon Nour, but there was no response. "We appealed through all legal channels, but to no avail," said Nour's wife, Gamila Ismail. Nour had previously stated that he would never ask the pardon of those who wronged him, but in light of his poor health it appears he has changed his mind.
Nour's health has been deteriorating in jail due to a coronary condition, diabetes and high blood pressure complications. He was also subject to unjust and harsh treatment, which led him to go on hunger strike more than once in objection, the statement said. It continued that Nour was banned from writing and prevented from receiving treatment and having an urgent artery operation.
Last May, the Cassation Court rejected Nour's appeal for a retrial. The court verdict dealt a crushing blow to any immediate political aspirations Nour may have. In order for Nour to resume his political career and clear his name, he needs to file a rehabilitation lawsuit six years after his release. What is certain is that Nour would be banned from running in the presidential elections of 2011.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal published on Monday, US President George Bush said that Mubarak should release Nour: "we were disappointed about Nour," Bush said. Asked whether he thought Mubarak should release Nour, Bush said: "yes, I do, but he'll make those decisions based upon his own laws."
SHORTLY after promising to step down from all leading party posts, the chairman of the Nasserist Party Diaaeddin Dawoud changed his mind.
Party elections are scheduled for next December.
Dawoud's decision to quit his political career came after losing his parliamentary seat for the Nile Delta constituency of Faraskour in last December's parliamentary elections. Moreover, his party failed to secure a single seat in parliament. Dawoud said his loss was due to "flagrant electoral fraud" which marred the elections, and caused him to give up.
However, during a meeting of the Nasserist Party's political bureau on 7 September, Dawoud was pressured by bureau members to reconsider his decision and remain party leader for another six years.
In-party reactions to Dawoud's decision varied; while some welcomed his return, others argued that it would split party ranks and stifle the party's progress.
Hunger strikes denied
MAJOR-General Mahmoud Wagdi, assistant to the minister of interior for prisons, denied on Sunday reports of hunger strikes by political detainees. Wagdi urged journalists to check their facts with the ministry before publishing material related to prisons. He added that the press usually gets such "inaccurate" information from families of detainees following visits. The only case of a hunger strike, noted Wagdi, was by a prisoner at the Mazraat Torah prison and is now over.
Wagdi's statement came in response to a report issued earlier by the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR), saying that dozens of detainees -- rounded up more than a year ago on suspicion of having links with militants -- have gone on a hunger strike in protest of their prolonged detention, despite a court ruling ordering their release.
The report sites the cases of 70 detainees and says they have been held since 2004 following an attack on the Khan Al-Khalili Bazaar that killed four (including the culprits), and more than 18 injured. The EOHR said the strike was taking place in a prison in Damanhour city, northeast of Cairo.
The report also called for the release of Mohamed Abdel-Halim Moussa, held in the same prison but in a different case, who suffers serious liver and spleen problems and needs urgent medical treatment. Moussa is held in connection to the Taba and Nuweiba bombings in October, 2004, which killed 34 and injured more than a dozen. (see p. 4)
A FOUR-vehicle collision in southern Cairo on Saturday killed 13 and injured 10 others, police sources said. A truck and a mini-bus crashed on a single-lane highway, and then two speeding trucks barrelled into the first two vehicles.
The accident occurred close to the southern city of Assiut, and the injured were taken to a nearby hospital, the official added.
Accidents occur frequently on Egyptian roads, which are often poorly maintained and where traffic regulations are not stringently applied.