Egypt frees one dissident, “disappears” another

An Egyptian political dissident whose imprisonment strained relations between Cairo and Washington for more than three years was unexpectedly freed Feb. 18 in an apparent goodwill gesture toward the new US administration. Ayman Nour, who ran against President Hosni Mubarak in 2005 and was later imprisoned on widely questioned forgery charges, was released for medical reasons, the Egyptian prosecutor’s office said. Nour, who has heart and eye ailments, was due to be freed in 2010 after a five-year sentence. His case came to symbolize a campaign by Mubarak’s National Democratic Party to silence political opponents. (Newsday, Feb. 19)

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has protested that Egyptian authorities have not disclosed the whereabouts of Diaa Eddin Gad, a young blogger and activist who campaigns against Egypt’s Gaza policy and was was detained on Feb. 6 outside his home in the Nile Delta province of Gharbiya. “He is believed to be held incommunicado in an unknown location, putting him at danger of torture,” the London-based rights group said. (Reuters, Feb. 19)

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