Persecution of a Democrat: "IN CAIRO last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she had spoken 'candidly' in her meetings about the imprisonment of liberal democratic reformer Ayman Nour, which she called a 'setback.' Apparently President Hosni Mubarak wasn't impressed. Within days of Ms. Rice's visit, prosecutors summoned Mr. Nour from prison to interrogate him on a host of new charges.
These are even more ludicrous than the bogus forgery rap that the regime used in December to sentence Mr. Nour to five years at hard labor. Among the 17 new 'crimes' prosecutors raised during a six-hour session Monday was Mr. Nour's financing of a statue of a famous Egyptian composer, which his accusers labeled an insult to Islam. Mr. Nour's wife, journalist Gameela Ismail, was also summoned by prosecutors: Incredibly, she was accused of assaulting some of the security thugs sent to disrupt demonstrations by Mr. Nour's supporters.
A year ago, under pressure from the Bush administration, Mr. Mubarak announced that he would allow opposition candidates to challenge him for reelection, and he released Mr. Nour, the 41-year-old founder of the Tomorrow Party, from prison to run against him. Now, sensing that Mr. Bush's democracy agenda is flagging, Mr. Mubarak is ruthlessly stamping out any semblance of moderate, secular opposition to his autocracy, so that the only alternative in Egypt will be Islamic fundamentalism. Mr. Nour's Tomorrow Party has been destroyed and other moderate parties refused legal registration, even as the Muslim Brotherhood was allowed to seat 88 of its members in parliament. Last month three senior civil judges who have been pressing for reforms, and who had publicly denounced fraud in last year's voting, were stripped of immunity and threatened with criminal charges.