"When you stand for your liberty we will stand with you. Democratic reformers facing repression, prison or exile can know: America sees you for who you are - the future leaders of your free country."
- President Bush, in his second inaugural address
President Bush's stirring commitment was only nine days old when Egypt's Ayman Nour was arrested in January. Nour, a 41-year-old member of parliament and a secular democrat, had announced that he intended to challenge President Hosni Mubarak's plan to extend his term in office. The 77-year-old strongman responded by ordering Nour's prosecution on trumped-up charges. U.S. pressure obtained Nour's release on bail in March, and he proceeded to stage a quixotic campaign against Mubarak in September's unfair presidential election.
Now, with the election over and U.S. attention focused on Iraq, Egypt's strongman has returned to persecuting his most prominent liberal opponent. Nour is back in prison, having been deprived by fraud of his parliamentary seat. Saturday, an Egyptian judge notorious for handling the president's dirty work is expected to sentence him to prison. If Bush's commitment to freedom fighters means anything at all, he cannot allow this blatant act of injustice to go unchallenged.
Some cases of political persecution have gray areas: The defendant might be guilty of supporting violence or hold an extremist ideology. Nour's is not one of them. He is one of Egypt's foremost proponents of a secular liberal democracy, credited with 8 percent of the vote in the presidential election. The charge against him, forgery, was proved a fabrication five months ago, when one of the principal witnesses recanted in court, saying he had been forced by state security police to invent his testimony. prison.
In short, the imprisonment of Nour will provide Bush with an opportunity - and an imperative - to fight for the cause of democracy in the heart of the Arab Middle East.
- Washington Post
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