Presidential candidate accused of forgery
Amid chaotic scenes in a Cairo court, the main opposition candidate in Egypt’s forthcoming presi-dential election went on trial on Tuesday accused of forgery.
Ayman Nour, leader of the Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) party, has faced constant harassment since declaring his intention to run for the presidency and says the charges are trumped up. A conviction would automatically disqualify him from the election in September.
At least 3 000 riot police closed streets around the court and set up a security cordon stretching 500m on either side of the building.
Nour, who arrived with 55 lawyers, was initially refused admission.
Later, standing in the caged dock, he pleaded not guilty to forging signatures in support of his party’s application for legal recognition.
He was originally arrested last January.
Between 2 000 and 3 000 supporters roamed the building as the trial began, but only a few were allowed into the courtroom. On the steps outside protesters chanted “Justice for Ayman Nour!” and waved banners declaring “No to fabrication”.
The case is being heard by Judge Abdel Salam Gomaa who, four years ago, sentenced human rights activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim to seven years in prison for fraud, tarnishing Egypt’s reputation and receiving foreign donations without government permission. He was later cleared by Egypt’s highest court.
“I will accuse them of forging for the past 50 years ... the will of 70-million Egyptians,” Nour responded to the charges on the eve of his trial.
President Hosni Mubarak, now 77, has been in power since 1981 but is expected to seek a fifth six-year term in the September election. Until now, his mandate has always been renewed in a referendum. Earlier this year, following street protests, he agreed to allow elections with more than one candidate in future.
Since then, would-be opponents have suffered harassment. One candidate, the feminist writer Nawal el-Saadawi, said she had been forced to abandon a meeting after police threatened to arrest organisers.
Last week a group of pro-reform politicians met the United States Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. The US, while praising multi-candidate elections, wants international monitoring, an idea the Egyptian government has so far resisted, branding it as foreign interference.—Guardian Newspapers 2005