An Egyptian court has refused opposition leader Ayman Nour's request for early release from prison. Nour, who ran against President Mubarak in Egypt's only contested presidential election, made the appeal for health reasons. Reporter Cache Seel has details from Cairo.
In a closed session, Judge Adel Gomaa rejected jailed opposition leader Ayman Nour's bid to have the remainder of his sentence commuted. Nour is serving a five-year sentence after being convicted of forging petitions required to form a political party. He denies the charges and says the case is politically motivated.
Nour, who has been in prison since December 2005, is an insulin-dependent diabetic and he made the appeal for health reasons. His wife, Gamila Ismail, claims that harsh treatment in prison, including alleged beatings, along with his untreated diabetes, have eroded her husband's health to the point where his life is in jeopardy.
"He was punished by sentencing him to five years in jail, but he was not punished to be put in death," she said. "This is why we are constantly asking for health release or release on health basis."
Before the verdict, she described herself as cautiously optimistic.
"Well, I had a wheelchair in my car today," she said. "I planned to take him back in a wheelchair and put him in a hospital and get him properly treated."
Nour's lawyer says he will appeal the decision as well as file complaints with the ministry of justice over Judge Gomaa's handling of the case. The lawyer, Amir Salem, says he was not only prevented from entering the courtroom, but the judge took less than five minutes to review the case.
"What happened today was a real violation for the criminal procedures law because the police forces, by force they prevented us, the defense for Ayman Nour to attend the court session and also they prevented Ayman Nour to attend the session," said Salem.
Salem says he is more optimistic about Nour's chances for a favorable verdict from the Administrative Court, which will review the case on June 12.
Nour, a former independent member of parliament, founded the opposition El-Ghad party in 2004. In Egypt's first multi-candidate presidential election one year later, he finished a distant second to incumbent President Hosni Mubarak. His case has brought harsh criticism from human rights groups as well as western governments, including the United States and other close allies of Egypt.