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Egyptian Judge Orders Police to Detain Opposition Leader

Egyptian police have detained opposition leader Ayman Nour on orders from the judge presiding over his criminal trial. Mr. Nour's lawyers see the move as a sign that the court is preparing to convict him.

The judge ordered Mr. Nour and his five co-defendants to be held in police custody until his trial resumes on Saturday.

The men have all been free on bail since March. They have pleaded not guilty to charges that they forged signatures on a petition last year to legally register Mr. Nour's political party.

Mr. Nour's lawyers say they consider his sudden detention a sign that the court plans to convict him on Saturday and sentence him to prison. Local observers say Egyptian judges frequently order defendants to be detained before issuing guilty verdicts.

Gameela Ismail is Ayman Nour's wife and spokeswoman. She said the judge issued his order before the defense team finished presenting its case.

"What happened today is just shocking! He did not even listen to the defense team! He did not listen to what they have to say! They have documents to present," she said. "Why? Why make a prejudgment? Why not listen until the end? Why does he arrest him? Why?"

Ms. Ismail says her husband was expecting to celebrate his 41st birthday Monday night with family and friends.

Ayman Nour placed a distant second to President Hosni Mubarak in September's presidential election, earning about eight percent of the vote. He lost his seat in parliament last month, but he has appealed the election results citing widespread fraud and voter intimidation in his district, which he has represented for a decade.

He was first arrested in January and spent six weeks in prison before being released on bail. His detention at that time prompted outrage among Egyptian pro-democracy activists and widespread international condemnation.