Friday, October 06, 2006

Ayman Nour to be freed?

There's potentially good news on the Ayman Nour front. Al-Ahram, one of the government's main mouthpieces, ran a report yesterday stating that Ayman Nour, jailed leader of the al-Ghad party, is scheduled to be examined by a medical team today, something that could lead to a presidential pardon.

Here's a link to the story.

I have two thoughts on this, one positive and one not so. The good news is Ayman Nour may get out of jail. His detention, I believe, has been politically motivated, his trial unfair. All of it has been part of the message from the Mubarak government to all hopeful reformers that change is going to be slow and limited.

The second not so hopeful message is that if Nour is released, it is because the government believes his detention has served its purpose of silencing and breaking a popular opponent. In short, he is not longer a challenge to them. During his trial and detention, Nour suffered not just from the legal proceedings but from a vicious campaign led by government-controlled media sources to portray him as a fraud, someone dependent upon Western support, someone alien to Egypt and Egypt politics. Inevitably the attention his campaign received from the West also brought him problems from his natural allies in the diverse opposition movement. As with Saad Ibrahim, the government has successfully been able to split off a prominent political challenger from the public and from normal sources of support. It's ugly, but it's been effective. Upon release, it may be difficult for Ayman to return to his previous level of effectiveness.

I'm hoping I'm wrong and the Egyptian government is making no such calculations but has actually come to see the error of this trial. Let's hope Ayman Nour is released from jail and he is able to pick up his campaign where it was left before his trial.


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