CAIRO, Egypt, AP – The runner-up in Egypt”s presidential elections took the stand in his trial on forgery charges Tuesday, accusing the government of trumping up the case to ruin his political career.
Prosecutors are seeking the maximum 15-year sentence against Ayman Nour on charges he forged signatures needed to register his al-Ghad party. A verdict in the six-month trial could come as early as this week.
Nour spoke at length in court Tuesday for the first time in the trial, insisting that President Hosni Mubarak”s government has sought from the start to knock him out of politics.
"I wish the prosecution would have investigated and searched for the truth with the same enthusiasm it looked for accusations," the 40-year-old Nour said. "The prosecution has been throwing around charges in a premeditated way."
Nour”s January arrest and subsequent 42-day detention brought condemnation from the United States, a key ally that called on the Egyptian government to allow greater democracy.
Nour, who has been on trial with six co-defendants since June, came in a distant second to Mubarak in Sept. 7 elections — the first in which Mubarak faced competitors. Nour”s showing was strong enough that some touted him as the main leader of Egypt”s opposition.
Since then, however, his star has fallen. Nour lost his bid for re-election to his parliament seat in voting earlier this month, though he has appealed the result, alleging vote fraud.
On Tuesday, Nour detailed what he called a government campaign against his party, saying the head of Egypt”s upper house of parliament, a Mubarak loyalist, had told him last year to give up his attempts to license his party.
His co-defendants claim that Nour ordered them to commit the signature forgery but Nour has said he does not even know them. One of the co-defendants recanted his testimony in court, saying security agents had threatened his family to force him to implicate Nour.
A defense witness Tuesday told the three-judge panel in the case that he heard a police colonel and one of Nour”s co-defendants conspiring against Nour shortly before the candidate”s arrest.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice canceled a visit to Egypt in March amid strains over the case and met with Nour and other opposition figures when she came four months later.