Monday, December 12, 2005

Update II on Ayman Nour trial

Family members today reported that Ghad political party leader Ayman Nour, who came in second place in last fall's presidential election, has gone on a hunger strike to protest conditions of his detention. Nour faces charges of forging names on election petitions and faces up to 15 years in jail. Nour and some human rights activists believe the charges are politically motivated to silence political opposition.

The BBC reported today that the trial has been adjorned until Dec. 24 when a verdict will be expected. Nour had been out on bail until the middle of the trial when the judge abruptly ordered that he be placed in detention. Family members sent out a message today raising concerns about his detention and stating he is being treated as a convicted prisoner rather than a detainee on trial.

The Washington Post is closely following the trial. It's editorial opinion is that the Nour trial is representative of the government's pre-election strategy of silencing all moderate and secular political opposition. That strategy backfired, the Post suggests, when it paved the way for the Muslim Brothers to make their strong showing in the elections. Belatedly, security forces decided to act in the last round of the elections to stop further gain by the Muslim Brothers.

The message that comes out of all of this, and I've know I'm repeating a previous post, is that engagement with the Egyptian political opposition means recognition of the strength of the Muslim Brothers; they remain the largest and most organized of the opposition groups. At the same time, as the strength of Nour's showing the presidential election and the actions of the government against him and others show, the Egyptian opposition is a rich and diverse groups that includes lawyers and other professionals, human rights activists, political democrats, economic liberals, socialists, secularists, intellectuals and others. The government wants us to think it's them vs. the Muslim Brothers. We know better.


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