Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ayman Nour pardoned; will contest 2012 presidential race

Egypt’s military ruler has officially pardoned a prominent liberal politician, paving the way for him to contest upcoming presidential elections. The move negates a 2006 forgery conviction that would otherwise prevent Ayman Nour from his second presidential bid.

"The decision restores rights to where they belong and this is one of the results of the revolution," Nour told Reuters.

In 2005, Nour placed second in Egypt’s first multi-candidate presidential election, receiving around 10 percent of the votes. Many saw Nour’s subsequent imprisonment as punishment for daring to challenge then-president Hosni Mubarak.

"The military council issued a presidential decree giving Ayman Nour the right to elect and nominate himself (in presidential elections), practice all his political rights and drop all penalties against him," Nour posted on his Twitter account on Wednesday.

The announcement of Nour’s pardon came just 10 days before the application period for presidential nominations will close.

Nour, 48, began speaking out against Mubarak’s regime two decades ago. He has already announced his intention to contest the upcoming presidential race.

Elections are expected May 23-24, 2012.

Nour can confirm his nomination in one of three ways: with 30,000 recommendations from citizens in at least 15 different governorates, with recommendations from at least 30 members of parliament, or by registering as the candidate of a recognized political party by April 8.

Nour’s new party, al-Ghad al-Thawra, won two seats in recent parliamentary elections as part of an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party.

Last year the Cairo Court of Cassation rejected Nour’s appeal to reconsider the 2006 forgery conviction that sent him to prison for five years. In 2005, Nour was accused of forging roughly 1,000 of the signatures submitted to form al-Ghad Party in 2004. Nour has consistently maintained his innocence and insisted the charges and conviction were politically motivated.

Under the Egyptian penal code, a person convicted of forgery, considered a crime of dishonor, is forbidden from participating in political life for five years from the end of his sentence. Thus, without the pardon Nour would be forbidden from running for public office or chairing a syndicate or political party until 2016, five years after his original sentence should have ended.

When Nour’s request for an appeal was denied, his supporters and other members of the political community called on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to pardon Nour.

“It is illogical that Ayman Nour is prevented from practicing his [election] nomination right while remnants of the former regime can,” fellow presidential contender and al-Karama Party head Hamdeen Sabbahi said at the time, calling on SCAF to pardon Nour.

Some have already come out in support of Nour after this most recent development, but others worry that his candidacy could further splinter what is likely to be a divided liberal vote.

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