Ayman Nour, a lawyer and leader of the pro-democracy Ghad, or Party of Tomorrow, was convicted by a court in Nasr City, Egypt, and sentenced to five years of hard labor.
In January 2005, Mr. Nour was arrested on charges that he falsified petitions that resulted in his party's legalization. Independent Egyptian lawyers said that the charges against Mr. Nour were groundless.
He spent forty-two days in jail before being released on bail. While on bail, Mr. Nour ran as a candidate in September's presidential election. He placed second to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek. Amir Salem, Mr. Nour's lawyer, says his client will appeal the conviction.
Mr. Salem says that the court in Nasr City has a history of deciding against political dissidents. "This sentence against Ayman Nour," he says, "is a political decision and not a judicial verdict."
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack issued a statement saying the U.S. "is troubled by the Egyptian court decision." He says, "Mr. Nour's trial has been marred by irregularities and inconsistencies, and has failed to meet the international standards of transparency and respect for rule of law that the Egyptian government has publicly espoused."
Ayman Nour's detention and sentencing, says Mr. McCormack, "raise serious concerns about the path of political reform and democracy in Egypt, and is inconsistent with the Egyptian government's professed commitment to increased political openness and dialogue within Egyptian society." The State Department spokesman says the U.S. is "following with concern the government of Egypt's handling of Ayman Nour's case."
President George W. Bush has said that the U.S. urges Egypt and other countries to open up their political systems:
"While our expectations must be realistic, our ideals must be firm and they must be clear. We 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."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.