Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Gearing Up

Now that election season is upon us, we can expect a lot of announcements like the two in al-Ahram today. First, Ayman Nour and six of his associates have been referred to Cairo Criminal Court for allegedly forging 1,435 signatures on al-Ghad party's petition. See the charge sheet and Prosecutor-General Maher Abdel Wahed's sternly-worded mouthful of a warning, "Any attempt to use this case to incite foreign forces against Egypt's sovereignty and the independence of its judiciary by sowing domestic discord under the pretext of human rights abuses is rejected in whole and in part." Reading the charge sheet, I was transported back to the case of Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who was similarly charged with forging voter registration cards as part of his research center's voter registration project. Unlike Saad, however, Nour is lucky that he's not being tried in an exceptional court and thus has a real chance at an acquittal. The question is, will this come quickly to enable him to run in the elections, or will he be consumed by a long trial and perhaps even a conviction, which would permanently disqualify him from taking part in any political process (unless he's exonerated by the Court of Cassation).

The second message comes from interior minister Habib al-Adli, who in remarks before the defense and national security committee in parliament vowed that demonstrators who "curse" and use "profanity" against "state leaders" will not be permitted to carry on with their nefarious utterances and "will be dealt with in another manner." His excellency clarified, "We do not prohibit demonstrations, but unfortunately there is a deviant minority and we will apply legal procedures against them." And added, "The rumors spread here and there aim at destruction and are backed by weak souls." Minister Adly pointed to the necessity of having confidence in state leaders and confronting these rumors with facts.

The intrepid Ahram reporter avers that MPs emphasized the necessity of sanctioning those who receive funding from abroad, and that MPs consider some associations to be "nodes of treason" because they receive funds and send reports. The selfsame MPs called on security forces to monitor such activities, especially since we're in an election year and some seek to use the situation within Egypt to threaten her stability.

The newspaper of record goes on to report the minister's statement that in the upcoming period, some prisons will be transferred outside of cities because the presence of prisons within cities has become abnormal. The minister also declared that emergency law is reviewed on a daily basis and any one whose position is deemed sound is released immediately.