The Egyptian government has released a
long time opposition leader ahead of President Hosni Mubarak's expected trip to
the United States to meet the new U.S. administration. But Supporters of
Ayman Nour dismissed
his release as a publicity stunt aimed to gain favor with President Barack
Obama's administration. Prosecutors ordered Nour's released Wednesday citing
his deteriorating health condition. Washington
has been critical of the Egyptian government over Nour's
arrest and detention and repeatedly called for his release. Claude
is the editor of the Middle East Times. He tells reporter
Peter Clottey that President Mubarak is playing his usual political game to get
continued U.S. aid to his country continues.
think what is happening is President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is coming to
Washington soon and he wants to show President Barack Obama who would certainly
bring up the issue of human rights in Egypt. He wants to demonstrate that he is
doing something about it. So, this is really a sign of goodwill on the side of
President Mubarak to whitewash the situation in Egypt. He is just releasing one
prisoner while there are hundreds who are rotting in Egyptian jails," Salhani noted.
He said there are reasons to
believe the claims by the opposition leader that he
had gone from being a victim of political assassination to being subjected to
physical destruction are true.
"You know it is very
possibly quite the case because there are two sorts of political destruction
going on with the people opposed to the rule of President Mubarak. One is the
physical elimination or let's say detention and physical abuse and torture that
that is carried out in Egyptian jails. And the other of course is the
psychological destruction of these people through a very systematic campaign
carried out by the authorities in Egypt," he said.
Salhani described the
release of opposition leader Nour as provisional.
"I think that this is
probably temporary while Mubarak is in the United States and I think once he
goes back to Egypt, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Nour and others are not
arrested a second time or harassed further," Salhani pointed out.
He said the opposition
leader could still be under the watchful eye of the Egyptian security agencies.
"Let's be very clear the
fact that he's been released means a lot to be out of jail, but he would
certainly be followed, his phone lines and internet lines would be monitored.
So he is not really a free man in that sense of the word," he said.
Salhani said President Obama
would raise the issue of democracy in Egypt when President Mubarak comes to
Washington for a visit.
"I think it absolutely will
be raised and I
think that is the reason why Mubarak is preempting if you want President
Obama's discussions because they will raise it and President Mubarak will do
what he's always done. He's been now in power 30 some years and he is very good
at playing these games giving the minimum to get the maximum. At stake for
President Mubarak of Egypt is two billion dollars in US military and economic
aid annually, two billion dollars," Salhani pointed out.
He said Nour would now be a stronger opposition
leader than before he was jailed.
"Well of course in every
country where regimes are not truly democratic, anybody who goes to jail for
political reasons usually comes out stronger. And that is certainly going to be
the case with Ayman Nour," he said.
Nour was released after serving
three of the five years after he was convicted on charges of forging affidavits
needed to set up his political party. He formed his political party in October
2004 with a view to contesting presidential elections the following year. But
he was swiftly stripped of his parliamentary immunity and charged with forging
affidavits needed to set up his party.
Nour has maintained the charges were
fabricated and politically motivated to punish him for challenge Mubarak, in
power since 1981. Nour has vowed to continue his work in politics through his
liberal opposition Ghad party. But Cairo denied the accusation, saying its
judiciary is independent and its rulings are not politically motivated.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton, who met Egypt's foreign minister in Washington last week, is expected
to visit Cairo early next month for an international donor conference on
rebuilding Gaza after Israel's invasion.