Egypt’s foreign minister, Ahmed Abul Gheit, hints to the Chicago Tribune that Ayman Nour will be released soon. On the PBS NewsHour last night, Aboul Gheit told Margaret Warner basically the same thing. “Maybe the issue might be sent to court. Maybe the issue might be dismissed.”
Then, Warner tried to get tricky.
MARGARET WARNER: You met with Vice President Cheney yesterday; you also met with national security advisor Steven Hadley.
Did either of them raise the question of either Mr. Nour’s arrest or the question of democratic change in Egypt more broadly?
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT: Listen, the issues focused on a wide range of issues. I will not touch on the specifics. But I leave it to them to reveal what are the contents of the discussions.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think that the role that Egypt is playing right now in the Israeli Palestinian process should earn it some protection right now from President Bush’s overall push for further democracy in the Middle East?
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT: Nobody is seeking or calling for protection from anything. Egypt is society, the government working on dealing with internal as well as external issues…
Gameela Ismail, Nour’s wife, told me the other day that Nour is held in a cell with 85 other people — not violent criminals, but men accused of public fraud or embezzlement. There are two bathrooms. I asked her about all the foreign attention being paid to the case, and how he was reacting to it. In a recent interview, Mona Makram-Ebeid, Al-Ghad’s secretary-general, distanced the party from American help.
But Ismail said Nour had sent a letter to his supporters, a reaction in part to accusations of foreign interference in some of the Egyptian press. She paraphrased the letter for me. “Don’t feel guilty about anything. They are the ones who should feel guilty. We did not ask for foreign interference. We welcome any organ or any state who will show support for our case. Our case is justified, and it has to do with human rights and freedom of speech…the fire is in their clothes not in our clothes.”