CAIRO, Egypt, AP – The court that sentenced a top opposition leader to five years in prison last month issued a report on Saturday saying Ayman Nour was convicted because of the “danger” posed by the defendants’ forgery techniques.
Nour’s lawyers responded that they would register an appeal within a month, as provided under Egyptian law.
Nour, 41, a distant runner-up to President Hosni Mubarak in last year’s presidential elections, was convicted Dec. 24 of forgery, a charge he has said the government invented to eliminate him from politics. The United States criticized the trial, which raised doubts about Mubarak’s sincerity in bringing greater democracy to Egypt.
Six co-defendants who allegedly assisted Nour in the fraud and testified against him were also found guilty. Nour pleaded innocent to ordering the forging of signatures to register his opposition Al-Ghad party in 2004.
In its report, the court said Nour’s denials of the charges were obvious attempts “to escape questioning about the crimes he had committed.”
“The court papers revealed the danger of the defendants and the sophistication of their mean ways in forging official documents and imitating government seals,” the report said, according to excerpts carried by Egypt’s official Middle East News Agency.
Amir Salem, Nour’s chief lawyer, told The Associated Press Saturday that he would ask for suspension of the verdict until the appeal was decided.
The United States denounced Nour’s conviction and has called for his release.
When Nour was first arrested on Jan. 29, 2005, and detained for 42 days, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice canceled a planned visit to Egypt in protest. When Nour was finally released on bail, Rice came to Cairo and met with Nour along with other opposition leaders.
Last week, visiting U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (news, bio, voting record), R-Va., tried without success to meet with Nour, who is being held in a prison hospital. He is diabetic and have heart problems.