December 26, 2005


Egyptian dissident gets 5-year prison sentence (The New York Times, Reuters, 12/25/05)

An Egyptian court sentenced Ayman Nour, a leading political opposition figure, to five years of hard labor on forgery charges, prompting protests among many Egyptians and a statement from the United States questioning the validity of the nation's judicial process.

Nour was convicted in a case widely seen as a political prosecution intended to silence a challenge to President Hosni Mubarak. Nour, a 41-year-old lawyer, was sentenced Saturday to five years in prison on the charge that he forged documents to found El Ghad, or the Tomorrow Party. Nour was Mubarak's main challenger in the September elections and has denied the charges.

In a courtroom packed with uniformed police and state security officers, it took just minutes for a judge to read out the verdict and sentence in a nearly inaudible whisper, provoking Nour, locked inside a foul-smelling, filthy cage inside the courtroom, to break into a chant of "Down with Mubarak!"

Diplomats from the United States, France, Norway and the European Union were seated in the courtroom. Political analysts, diplomats, scholars and writers have said that the charges appeared little more than political persecution, especially after one of the prosecution's main witnesses said he testified against Nour only after state security forces threatened his nieces.

Libya court overturns death term for nurses (Craig S. Smith and Matthew Brunwasser, DECEMBER 25, 2005, The New York Times, International Herald Tribune)
The Libyan Supreme Court on Sunday overturned the convictions of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who had been sentenced to death on charges of infecting hundreds of Libyan children with the HIV virus. The politically charged case was sent back to a lower court for a retrial.

The action, which came on the heels of an international agreement to set up a fund that will pay for the children's medical care, raised hopes that the medical workers might eventually be freed.

"The court has accepted the appeal of the Bulgarian nurses and ordered that a new trial take place at the criminal court of Benghazi," the Supreme Court's president, Ali al-Alus, told Agence France-Presse, referring to the coastal Libyan city where the infections took place. [...]

Although Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, did not intervene in the case, one of his sons, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, has been involved in negotiations. He said a year ago the defendants would not be executed.

The Egyptians had elections first, but the younger Qaddafi seems to have a surer grasp of what liberalizing Libya requires than does the younger Mubarak, or perhaps just more influence. At any rate, the pace of such reforms will inevitably be uneven, but they end up in the same place eventually.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 26, 2005 12:01 AM
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