He was imprisoned in January 2005 by the government of President Hosni Mubarak. Nour was released on health grounds on February 18, 2009. Following the fall of Mubarak in the 2011 Revolution, Nour stated his intention to run for the vacant presidency.
Nour was born in the city of Mansoura in 1964. His father was a lawyer and a former Member of Parliament and his mother established and supervised a number of charity projects in Mansoura. He had been married to Gamila Ismail who also served as the vice president to the El-Ghad Party.
Formation of El GhadThe El Ghad party was formally recognized by the Egyptian government on October 27, 2004. Following its creation, Nour was elected president of the party at its first convention a few days later. His prominence as an independent MP made him the star of the party and one of the driving forces behind its organization. Nour fought hard to get the party recognized; its application was rejected three times before official status was finally granted.
The party was created to represent a liberal democratic perspective, with a strong interest in human rights issues. Nour used the party as a platform to call for constitutional reform, limiting the president’s powers and opening presidential elections to multiple candidates.
Arrest and imprisonment
Nour was stripped of his parliamentary immunity and arrested on January 29, 2005. He was charged with forging PAs (Powers of Attorney) to secure the formation of the el-Ghad party. Nour vehemently denied the charges (from prison).
The arrest, occurring in an election year, was widely criticized by governments around the world as a step backwards for Egyptian democracy. Few seem to regard the charges as legitimate. Nour remained active despite his imprisonment, using the opportunity to write critical articles and make his case and cause better known.
In February 2005, Condoleezza Rice abruptly postponed a visit to Egypt, reflecting U.S. displeasure at the jailing of Nour, who was reported to have been brutally interrogated. That same month, the government announced the following month that it would open elections to multiple candidates.
In March 2005, following a strong intervention in Cairo by a group of Members of the European Parliament led by Vice-President Edward McMillan-Scott (UK, Conservative), Nour was freed and began a campaign for the Egyptian presidency.
Nour was the first runner-up in the 2005 presidential election with 7% of the vote according to government figures and estimated at 13% by independent observers, although no independent observers were allowed to monitor the elections.
On December 24, 2005 he was sentenced to five years in jail. Though diabetic, Nour engaged in a two-weeks long hunger strike to protest his trial.
Nour’s verdict and sentencing made global headlines and were the first item of news on most international news broadcasts, including the BBC.
On the day of Nour’s guilty verdict and sentencing, the White House Press Secretary released the following statement denouncing the government’s action:
The United States is deeply troubled by the conviction today of Egyptian politician Ayman Nour by an Egyptian court. The conviction of Mr. Nour, the runner-up in Egypt’s 2005 presidential elections, calls into question Egypt’s commitment to democracy, freedom, and the rule of law. We are also disturbed by reports that Mr. Nour’s health has seriously declined due to the hunger strike on which he has embarked in protest of the conditions of his trial and detention. The United States calls upon the Egyptian government to act under the laws of Egypt in the spirit of its professed desire for increased political openness and dialogue within Egyptian society, and out of humanitarian concern, to release Mr. Nour from detention.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice abruptly postponed a visit to Egypt yesterday, reflecting deep displeasure at the jailing of a leading opposition figure, U.S. officials said.
Rice had planned to travel to Egypt and possibly other countries in the region after attending on Tuesday a conference on Palestinian reform in London. The trip was not officially announced, but Egyptian officials had said she would attend a conference on political and economic reform later in the week. But after a tense meeting between Rice and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit in Washington over the case of Ayman Nour — during which Rice hinted she might skip the conference if the case was not resolved quickly — the Egyptians six days ago postponed the conference.
In February 2006, Rice visited Hosni Mubarak yet never spoke Nour’s name publicly. When asked about him at a news conference, she referred to his situation as one of Egypt’s setbacks. Days later, Mubarak told a government newspaper that Rice “didn’t bring up difficult issues or ask to change anything.” From prison, Nour stated “I pay the price when [Rice] speaks [of me], and I pay the price when she doesn’t,” Nour said. “But what’s happening to me now is a message to everybody.”
In June 2007 President Bush, speaking at a conference of dissidents in the Czech Republic, revisited the issue of Ayman Nour, saying:
There are many dissidents who couldn’t join us because they are being unjustly imprisoned or held under house arrest. I look forward to the day when a conference like this one include Alexander Kozulin of Belarus, Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, Oscar Elias Biscet of Cuba, Father Nguyen Van Ly of Vietnam, Ayman Nour of Egypt. (Applause.) The daughter of one of these political prisoners is in this room. I would like to say to her, and all the families: I thank you for your courage. I pray for your comfort and strength. And I call for the immediate and unconditional release of your loved ones. … I have asked Secretary Rice to send a directive to every U.S. ambassador in an un-free nation: Seek out and meet with activists for democracy. Seek out those who demand human rights.
Nour was released on health grounds on 18 February 2009.He was injured in the Egyptian protests of January 28 2011, where he received a stone in the head. He is being currently treated in a hospital in Agouza.
Soon after, some members of the Tomorrow Party removed Nour from the presidency (a move which is supported by the Egyptian government and Nour’s political opponents), but Nour is still the official president of “El Ghad Party”. Today, the Council of the State is looking into the case filed by the divided party, taking into consideration that Nour is still officially the president and the other members were expelled from the party three days before their actions (which included claiming that they are the leaders of “El Ghad Party” and issuing a party newspaper opposing the law of press production and also entering the parliament elections under the “El Ghad” name despite the fact that they were expelled).
In November 2007, Gamila Ismail, wife of Ayman Nour, announced her resignation from her position as deputy chairman of the party without giving much more detail.
Wikipedia: Ayman Nour
Wikipedia: El-Ghad Party
Washington Post: Rice Drops Plans for Visit to Egypt
White House Archive: White House Statement on Conviction of Egyptian Politician Ayman Nour