Egyptian NGOs unite around Nour

I just received the following statement:

Egyptian party leader and activist arrested and pilloried in the press


A message to other Egyptian political parties


Signatory civil society groups to this statement express their anger at the lifting of Ayman Nour’s parliamentary immunity. The speed with which Nour, a member of the People’s Assembly and leader of the Ghad political party, was arrested, the timing of the arrest and its illegality under the People’s Assembly internal regulations all raise strong suspicion. Increasing this suspicion is the fact that he was arrested, his home and office searched and Nour himself insulted in circumstances which clearly indicate that the charges laid against him - of falsifying the signatures of founder members of the party - are unfounded.


Signatory groups also express their fear that this strange arrest may represent a message to other political parties, especially since it comes before the start of the ‘national dialogue’ scheduled to begin on Monday 31st 2005. Nour’s arrest is on the eve of the Egyptian presidential elections at a time when all sections of Egyptian society – including the ruling party – are calling for political and democratic reform. Political parties are being prevented from performing their role and exercising their constitutional rights.


Increasing doubts and suspicion, in the face of the interest which the Ghad leader has aroused and the motive for his arrest, is that the decision to lift his parliamentary immunity was taken on the basis of state security and public funds investigations forces investigations into a complaint consisting of statements which do not satisfy the standard of proof necessary to justify lifting the immunity of a political party leader. The demand that Nour’s immunity be lifted was not accompanied by case papers as required by the People’s Assembly internal regulations in order to ensure that the Assembly can take a sound decision which does not violate the constitutional rights of its members.


Confirming this suspicion is the fact that the state security prosecution office searched Nour’s office and home - despite the fact that the allegedly forged signatures were located in the Shura Council – before the decision was taken to lift his immunity, a flagrant violation of the Egyptian Constitution.


These events constitute a message directed to other political parties and their leaders. Nour was arrested in a manner demonstrating that the security forces deliberately intended to humiliate him. The Ghad Party leader was assaulted in Qasr el Aini Street and arrested in Tahrir Square, Cairo.


Lawyers present during public prosecution office investigations remarked that news of Nour’s arrest was published in Egyptian papers on the evening of the 29th January 2005 which plainly indicates a desire to prejudice opinion by spreading news of the case.


The signatory groups to this statement strongly protest Ayman Nour’s treatment, especially given that he is enduring extremely bad physical and psychological conditions. He has been the victim of a flagrant violation of the rights enjoyed by People’s Assembly members. The signatories are confident that the Egyptian judiciary will quickly reinstate his lawful rights.


The signatories express their solidarity with the Ghad leader, and urge international and regional organisations to expose what Nour has been subject to public opinion with impartiality and transparency.


Signatory organisations to this statement:


1.      The Arab Program for Human Rights Activists

2.      The Egyptian Association Against Torture

3.      The Hisham Mubarak Law Center

4.      The Land Center for Human Rights

5.      The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights

6.      Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies


It's worth noting that many of these organizations are considerably to the left of Nour politically.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.