Leading Egyptian dissident freed from jail
A leading Egyptian dissident, Ayman Nour, who was jailed after challenging the country's president in the 2005 elections, was unexpectedly freed Wednesday. Nour's jailing has harmed Egyptian-U.S. relations for more than three years, and his sudden release may be a gesture to improve ties with President Barack Obama's administration.
Nour told The Associated Press from his Cairo home that he learned he was going to be freed only when a car arrived at the prison to take him home. "Why they did this is unknown," he said.
"I am coming out with an open heart and am ready to work and nothing has changed. A lot of things have been put on hold over the past years. ... I am ready to make a change in this country," he told the AP.
He later told reporters gathered at his home: "I will definitely resume my political activity."
The prosecutor's office said in a statement that Nour was ordered freed for health reasons. Nour has complained of heart and eye problems, and his wife petitioned Egyptian courts for his release on health grounds.
Nour, who headed the opposition Al-Ghad party, challenged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in September 2005 presidential elections, but finished a distant second in balloting criticized as flawed and in which most voters stayed away.
Nour, who is in his mid-40s, was convicted Dec. 24, 2005 of forging signatures on petitions to register the party in 2004. He said he was prosecuted to eliminate him from politics, and the argument received wide support among human rights groups.