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Cablegate: Courtroom Encounter with Ayman Nour

VZCZCXRO0448
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #0480 0701455
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101455Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8485
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS CAIRO 000480

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

NSC FOR PASCUAL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM KDEM EG
SUBJECT: COURTROOM ENCOUNTER WITH AYMAN NOUR

REF: 2006 CAIRO 3006

Sensitive but unclassified. Not for Internet distribution.

1. (SBU) Summary: In a chance encounter on the sidelines of
a March 10 court hearing, poloff had a brief conversation
with jailed former opposition leader Ayman Nour. Nour,
looking pale but generally healthy, said he was "extremely
grateful" for all of the USG's efforts on his behalf: "I
cannot find words to express my appreciation." Poloff
replied that the U.S. is trying its best to obtain his
release. End summary.

2. (SBU) We attended a March 10 hearing at the 18th District
Cairo Felonies Court of a 2006 libel case that Nour and his
wife, Gameela Ismail, had filed against the now-defunct
newspaper "Sawt al Bulaq" (Voice of Bulaq). Nour was in
attendance, which is unusual; since the appeal of his 5-year
sentence was rejected on May 18, 2006 (reftel), we have not
seen Nour at any of the numerous court hearings we have
attended. Nour, looking pale but generally healthy,
chain-smoking throughout the proceedings, was sitting in the
front row of the courtroom next to Ismail and his lawyer.
All other prisoners in the courtroom were locked in a large
cage on the left-hand side of the facility, and dressed in
the standard Egyptian inmate's white pajamas. Nour, dressed
in street clothes, was clearly getting special treatment,
perhaps in part because he was the plaintiff in this lawsuit,
rather than the defendant.

3. (SBU) Poloff caught Nour's eye during the hearing. During
a subsequent break in court proceedings, Nour was hustled out
of the courtroom into an adjoining room. Ismail informed
poloff that Nour, pleased by USG attendance at the hearing,
wanted to meet briefly. Surprisingly, the security guards
outside the side-room did not raise any protest when Ismail
and poloff made their way inside. Nour, greeting poloff with
a firm handshake, said that he was "extremely grateful" for
all of the USG's efforts on his behalf - "I cannot find words
to express my appreciation." Poloff replied that it was an
honor to meet him, and said that U.S. is trying its best to
obtain his release. Further conversation was inhibited by
the presence of four senior SSIS officers in the room.
RICCIARDONE

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