Egypt has just released political dissident Ayman Nour, who has spent more than three years in prison. Bloggers welcomed the move, but were left wondering about its motives and timing.
Nour, who ran against Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in the 2005 presidential elections, was arrested on January 29, 2005, after being charged with forging Powers of Attorney to secure the formation of Al Ghad Party – charges which he denied.
His arrest, said to be politically motivated, sparked an internal and foreign outcry calling for his release. Nour was released Wednesday following an order from the Public Prosecutor for “health reasons.” And now his release is being described by bloggers and the international Press as “unexpected” too.
The Arabist explains:
There is no further information as to why now, or why previous appeals to release him on medical ground were denied, but this appears to be a political decision. Rather strange timing that this happens a couple of days after the Washington Post urges the Obama administration not to deal with Hosni Mubarak unless Nour is freed.
Let’s assume – with all due respect to the integrity of the Egyptian legal system – that this is a political decision. What’s the rationale? I think the most plausible explanation is that it is not just an overture to Obama that Mubarak wants to change the negative dynamic in the US-Egypt relationship. It is a clear message that says, “look: Bush tried for four years to pressure me. But I do things on my own timing
and any pressure is counterproductive.” The message is, before Obama and his administration settle into a clear approach on Egypt (I don’t think the NSC staffer on Egypt has even been appointed yet), that if the same US approach to Egypt continues, it will only generate headaches.
Writing at Egyptian Chronicles, Zeinobia welcomed Nour's release, and she too speculates that it was pressure from Washington which has prompted it. She explains:
The Washington Post was speaking from two days ago that Mubarak wanted
to meet with Obama in the first 100 days and the White House put some conditions : The Release of Ayman Nour and the Return of Saad El-Din Ibrahim.
Here is the first condition fulfilled but what about Ibrahim !!?? We Shall see ;)
Zeinobia zooms in on the mood around her following Nour's release and reports:
I am really happy despite I am not a member in his party or a supporter but I am so happy.
Everybody is Happy ,even my grand ma is happy , she thanked God.
Ayman Nour is free again and what is better than that is he said that he will continue his political career again ;)
In a follow up post, Zeinobia discusses Nour's appearance on a popular television show.
Per Bjorklund, a Swedish journalist in Cairo, notes:
Not surprisingly these sudden developments has led to speculations in media and blogs that Nour's release was “a gesture of goodwill to the Obama administration.”
The blogger continues:
It's possible. Adding my own wild conspiracy theories to the speculations, I can't help but wonder if there is any relation between the release of Nour and the probable detention by state security of a party activist last week. Was the “disappearance” of Hossam Shahata some kind of revenge for the administrative court decision? Or a signal that even as Nour is released in order to appease Obama and easen the pressures for “reform”, the security apparatus will persist in it's harassment of party activists in order to prevent al-Ghad from capitalizing on Nours release to broaden it's support base? Or (most likely) was the kidnapping just “business as usual,” part of the daily routine
repression that Obama is now going to ignore because one of thousands of political prisoners was released?
Afreet doesn't camouflage his confusion and writes in his usual sarcastic tone:
محدش فاهم حاجة وماحدش فاهم الناس دي بتفكر في ايه
واكيد همه مبسوطين عشان ماحدش فاهم حاجة
يمكن تكون دي اول بركات الحاج اوباما ابن حسين يمكن الله اعلم
لو حد فاهم حاجة يبقى يقول لي
And why now?
Now one understands anything and no one understands how those people think.
And of course they are happy, because no one understands anything!
Could this be one of the first blessings of Obama son of Hussein? Perhaps. Only God knows.
If anyone understands anything, please let me know.
And although Nour's criminal record means that he cannot run in elections in Egypt, Egyptian Stories is ecstatic at the news of his release and writes:
Dearest Ayman, I know to whom will I vote next elections. I know to whom I will listen and whom I will trust. for my eyes only see hope in your movement towards the future of our nation.
Stay tuned for more reactions from the Egyptian blogosphere as this story unfolds.