Sunday, December 25, 2005

Egypt - Democracy?

With the support the US gives to Saudi Arabia, this little bit of news shouldn't have any effect.

From the NY Times:

CAIRO, Dec. 24 - An Egyptian court sentenced Ayman Nour, a leading opposition figure, to five years at hard labor on Saturday after convicting him in a forgery case widely seen as a political prosecution aimed at silencing a challenge to President Hosni Mubarak's monopoly on power.

With diplomats from the United States, France, Norway and the European Union seated in a courtroom otherwise packed with uniformed police and state security men, a judge read out the verdict and sentence in a nearly inaudible whisper. Mr. Nour, 41, locked in a foul-smelling, filthy cage in the courtroom, began to chant, "Down with Mubarak."

Mr. Nour was convicted of having forged signatures on the petitions used in 2004 to create his own political party - charges that political analysts, diplomats, academics and writers said appeared to be little more than a fig leaf for political persecution, especially after one of the prosecution's main witnesses said he testified only after state security forces threatened his nieces.

"This verdict against Ayman Nour is a political decision and not a judicial ruling," said Amir Salem, Mr. Nour's main lawyer, as soon as it was announced. "We will appeal."

Egypt is one of the United States' closest allies in the Middle East, receiving about $2 billion a year in financial and military aid, and the White House had hoped that it would serve as a showcase for promoting democracy as a means to halt the spread of extremism. But government-sponsored violence during recent parliamentary elections and now the jailing of Mr. Nour have clearly strained relations.

The White House released a statement within hours of the verdict calling for Mr. Nour's release and saying that his conviction "calls into question Egypt's commitment to democracy, freedom and the rule of law."