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Egyptian Reformer Remains In Jail

The following is an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government:

The independent Egyptian Human Rights Organization has warned that the life of Ayman Nour could be in danger. Mr. Nour is the imprisoned head of Egypt's liberal Tomorrow Party. He is also a diabetic with a history of heart trouble.

His wife told the Reuters news agency that after Egyptian security officials renewed their interrogation of Mr. Nour on February 21st, he was "sweating, vomiting and holding his left arm." Prison officials refused his doctor's request that he be hospitalized. Instead, he was taken to a prison clinic.

Ayman Nour was arrested in late January on charges that he falsified petitions that resulted in the legalization of his Tomorrow party in October. But independent Egyptian lawyers said the charges against him are groundless.

Mr. Nour had been campaigning against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's plans to extend his twenty-four-year rule another six years by means of an uncontested referendum to be held later this year. Mr. Nour helped organize unprecedented public demonstrations against the referendum.

The day before Mr. Nour's arrest, police arrested three activists at the Cairo book fair as they were handing out leaflets inviting the public to an anti-Mubarak rally. Police also confiscated books at the fair that demanded an end to Mubarak's one-man rule. Several days later, police arrested ten students at Egypt's Minufiya University for allegedly distributing leaflets hostile to President Mubarak.

The U.S. has called on the Egyptian government to release Ayman Nour. President George W. Bush says the United States and its allies are urging friendly Middle Eastern governments to open up their political systems:

"Europe and America should not expect or demand that reforms come all at once - that didn't happen in our own histories. My country took many years to include minorities and women in the full promise of America - and that struggle hasn't ended. Yet, while our expectations must be realistic, our ideals must be firm and they must be clear. We must expect higher standards from our friends and partners in the Middle East."

Mr. Bush said "the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East."