Government punishes Nour for not "behaving"

Al Dustour, an opposition weekly, has just run an article about the deteriorating conditions under which Ayman Nour is being held.
Dr. Ayman Nour is living this tragedy in a narrow room at the Tura Mazraa prison. He was obliged to choose to stop taking his medicine or using the hospital's health care equipment for fear that he would receive an AIDS infection or be infected with the skin disease after the prison administration transferred four AIDS patients who had earlier been in isolation and three others suffering from scabies.

The obligatory mingling with the AIDS and scabies patients followed a quick surprise visit from General Mahmoud Wagdy, head of the Prison's Authority (Dr. Zakariya Azmy's friend) who asked Ayman Nour to stop writing the weekly column for the party's newspaper and refrain from talking about Gamal Mubarak. General Mahmoud Wagdy advised Ayman Nour at the end of the meeting, which took place on Thursday, to "behave himself a little!"

Instead, Nour apparently wrote his next column about Mubarak himself--and the column never made it into print.

Nour is currently appealing his conviction on forgery charges; in the meantime, 17 new charges (inculding insulting the president and beating police officers) have been brought against him. Charges have also been brought against his wife and other members of his party. The Al Dustour article implies that the government wants to kill Nour through poor prison health care.
I've covered Ayman Nour on and off since his party was trying to form, through his presidential run and trial. Western journalists and diplomats have a tendency to idealize and romanticize him--and to overestimate his following. Among Egyptian political circles and intelligentsia, he's always suffered from rumors about his past (his degrees, his money) and from the sense that he's a bit of a light-weight, an opportunist.
Six months ago I would have summed up Ayman Nour by saying: real political animal, with all that that implies. He may have some skeletons in the closet, and his party and campaign may have been disorganized, but the man knows how to work a crowd.

Today two things impress me. The first is that Nour over the last year has been truly courageous; nothing the authorities have done to him has cowed him. And the second is that the way he and his family (he has two wonderful young sons) are being "taught a lesson" is beyond shameful.

You can read the full Al Dustour article after the jump.

You can read a profile of Nour that ran in Cairo here.


Ayman Nour is Dying at the Tura Mazraa Prison Hospital
Ahmed Fikry
Al-Dustoor, Issue 56, Wednesday, 12 April, 2006 / 14 Rabie al-Awal 1427

Put yourself in his place.Imagine, God forbid, that you are lying in a hospital with an AIDS patient next to you. Yes, a real AIDS patient, in the flesh and blood, with all his pain, despair and depression.

Not only are you accompanied by an AIDS patient, but, while you are a helpless prisoner, prohibited from movement you find yourself obliged to adapt to your neighbor whose skin is falling off onto the dirty tiles while his blood is seeping through his flesh due to an old and deteriorated scabies infection!!

Dr. Ayman Nour is living this tragedy in a narrow room at the Tura Mazraa prison. He was obliged to choose to stop taking his medicine or using the hospital's health care equipment for fear that he would receive an AIDS infection or be infected with the skin disease after the prison administration transferred four AIDS patients who had earlier been in isolation and three others suffering from scabies.

The obligatory mingling with the AIDS and scabies patients followed a quick surprise visit from General Mahmoud Wagdy, head of the Prison's Authority (Dr. Zakariya Azmy's friend) who asked Ayman Nour to stop writing the weekly column for the party's newspaper and refrain from talking about Gamal Mubarak. General Mahmoud Wagdy advised Ayman Nour at the end of the meeting, which took place on Thursday, to "behave himself a little!"

However, Ayman did not respond, did not behave himself and wrote his column as usual. However, this time he did not attack Gamal Mubarak but Mubarak in person. This is the article which the state security officer confiscated in the prison, refusing to deliver the column to Nour's family which led Nour to file a complaint to the Maadi prosecution accusing the Interior Minister, the Head of the Prisons Authority, the prison warden, the head of the prison's investigations and the state security officer of attempting to morally murder him because writing is Nour's only means of interacting and communicating with people. He also complained about plots to murder him.

In objection, Nour let his beard grow and completely refused to allow the prison barber to visit him. These objection measures on part of Nour worsened his already deteriorated health condition. He suffered from a kidney attack and had to inject himself despite not being qualified or trained. He was obliged to use medicine and medical equipment that his family buys. Such practices resulted in sores and wounds in his arms and the veins of his hands, and left black spots all over his body. Moreover, the diabetes symptoms worsened resulting in swollen feet and face, in addition to general exhaustion believed by those close to him to be an attempt on part of the regime to kill him indirectly, unlike the case with others who were killed directly!

This means that Ayman Nour, the prisoner who is in the custody and under the responsibility of the Interior Ministry may be liquidated through deteriorating health conditions. This plot is very similar to the case with Mahmoud Nour Eddin, the Egypt Revolution organization leader who was accused of killing Zionists. Mahmoud Nour Eddin had died, according to the prison's medical report, due to a severe and sudden enlargement of the brain, heart, kidneys, liver and all the vital organs. It is a strange case that doctors at the Kasr al-Eini hospital explain could have been induced by toxic material that entered the body through food or otherwise, according to Lawyer Khaled Talaat.

The exceptional measures taken against Ayman Nour were not restricted to surrounding him with contagious diseases or rumors at the prison hospital. He was even deprived of visits. The prison administration refused to allow his visitors to enter on Sunday (the Prophet's birthday). Only his wife and children were allowed to see him at the time when visits and the number of visitors were open to all other prisoners on the occasion of the Prophet's birthday.

Prior to that, his correspondence was completely prevented in contradiction with the Constitution which guarantees the right to correspondence between prisoners, their families and lawyers.

Within the framework of tough measures, three informants were appointed to watch Ayman Nour even when he goes to the toilet. The deputy warden joined the plot by checking on Nour's cell every hour.

Moreover, the prison administration completely refused to allow the al-Borg laboratory physician brought by Nour's family to obtain a blood sample. The sample will be obtained at prosecution on Wednesday.

The measures to restrict Nour's medical care coincided with measures to restrict his media access and preventing him from writing at an important and serious timing when the Court of Cassation is to consider his case.

The European Parliament had drawn the attention to the fact that Counselor Salah al-Bory, head of the Cassation circuit which considers Nour's appeal, is the same judge in charge of investigation with the judges. The European Parliament expressed concern that the head of the circuit had not –during his career- accepted any of the Cassation cases presented to him.

These violent and unfair measures against Nour took place on the week following the session of the Approvals Committee at the US Congress where members called for stopping USAID to Egypt because, in addition to imprisoning Nour, Egypt has not made any progress towards political reform.
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Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.