A few months after his release from prison, Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour is in the news again. Nour, who walked free last February on health grounds after almost four years in jail, has recently reported to the police an attack on him by an anonymous person. His critics claim he has made up the incident to keep attention focused on him.
“A person on a motorbike attacked me with a spray bottle while I was walking in (the Cairo fashionable quarter of) Zamalek,” Nour told reporters. I did not see the assailant, who was 17 or 19. I suffered burns on the forehead as a result.” According to Nour, the alleged attack was politically motivated. It took place after “I announced that I would run for the parliament next year”.
Nour trailed a distant second to puppet Hosni Mubarak in Egypt’s first competitive presidential election in 2005. A few months later, an Egyptian court sentenced him to five years on charges of forging official documents to register his party Al Ghad (Tomorrow). His supporters said the charges were politically motivated.
Under Egyptian law, Nour, convicted of a dishonoring offence is barred from dealing in politics or running in elections for five years. “I am an Egyptian citizen, and no one can prevent me even for five seconds from serving my country,” he said upon his release from prison.
Nour’s image has, however, suffered when a local doctor denied allegations that he had been attacked by a flammable material in his face. Nour came to the hospital suffering from burns caused by a hair dryer, and not by a sprayer, said Dr Nadia Gheith, a dermatologist, at a hospital to which Nour had gone after the alleged assault. Dr Gheith was quoted in local newspapers as telling prosecutors that Nour, 44, had also asked her about the cost of a hair implant operation.
He was in a hurry for such an operation as he said he was about to appear on a European TV show. I told him such procedure takes time.
Ayman, a lawyer by profession, denied Dr Gheith’s account, and accused security agencies of pressuring witnesses in order to harm his name. His allegations have, nonetheless, earned him rebuke even from sympathizers.
“I have to admit that I took Nour’s side because he was a promising politician,” wrote Khairi Ramadan in the independent newspaper Al Masri Al Youm, “but he ended up prison because of his mistakes. He continues to make mistakes and get engaged in trivial battles”.