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Egypt - Cable from Imprisoned Egyptian Opposition Leader: Defend Democracy “for the friendship of peoples live forever”

Peoples do not die, but governments change like the winter weather By Richard Smallteacher, Wikileaks 1 February 2011

Ayman Nour, one of the senior leaders of the Egyptian opposition who is currently organizing a coalition to create an interim government, wrote an eloquent letter from prison in 2006 to then Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, in which he implored the U.S. not to stand by and ignore his plight, according to a new cable released by Wikileaks.

Nour, leader of Egypt’s El Ghad (“Tomorrow”) Party and a former presidential candidate, was imprisoned by the government of President Hosni Mubarak in January 2005 on grounds of forging election papers. In February 2006 Nour wrote a letter from Tora Ranch General Prison in southern Cairo that was hand-delivered to the U.S. embassy in anticipation of a visit by Rice to Cairo. A translated copy was sent by diplomatic cable (06CAIRO6171) to Rice by Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr., the U.S. ambassador to Egypt.

In the letter Nour reminded Rice that he had met her in 2005 when she gave a lecture at the American University in Cairo on democracy. He also noted that President Bush had claimed to the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. government had made a request to Mubarak to pardon Nour.

Nour opened with a moving plea to Condoleeza Rice: “From behind thick bars and a place beyond the sun’s reach, I welcome you. (B)ecause I am not in a position to present a flower bouquet with this welcome, as a token of friendship, I will attempt to present old and new quotes which will bear what I wish flowers would have borne and expressed.”

Nour went on to relate three anecdotes to explain the consequences of the U.S. ignoring Egypt. The first, an apocryphal tale from a Russian diplomat, suggests that Americans would not rescue a drowning man.

The second recalled Egyptian history: “The shouts of Egyptians during March and April 1919, when the first civic revolution in modern Egyptian history broke out, and the Egyptian masses were shouting for the life of two people — the first, the banished leader of the Egyptian revolution Saad Zaghloul, and the second, President Wilson who elaborated the Twelve Principles (sic), the most important of which was the right to self-determination. The second scene is the same masses shouting against Wilson when he acknowledged the British mandate in Egypt.”

In the third anecdote, Nour quotes Mostafa Amin, Egypt’s most famous columnist and journalist, who wrote in his book "Laughing America” the following: "The American loves speed, and that is the secret behind the alliance between American policy and dictatorships, but what it gains quickly, it loses quicker, for America ) despite its love for speed - is in the habit of missing the train, but then it notices and it runs after the train, it even buys a car especially for that purpose, but that does not help, so it buys a plane, and just like that it pays the price of the train doubled!”

“Maybe America gains a lot when it exports to us arms and cars or planes, but it loses more when it does not export the best that its civilization has produced which is ’Freedom and Democracy and Human Rights.’ The value of America is that it should defend this product, not only in its country but throughout the world! It may harm some of its interests, but it will make gains that will live hundreds of years, for the friendship of peoples live forever, because the peoples do not die, but governments change like the winter weather.”

Rice never publicly asked the Egyptian government to pardon or release Nour in 2006. Subsequently Nour stated from prison: "I pay the price when [Rice] speaks [of me], and I pay the price when she doesn’t. But what’s happening to me now is a message to everybody." Nour was finally released on health grounds on 18 February 2009.

Nour was injured and hospitalized in the first wave of demonstrations last week. On Sunday he returned to work with other opposition leaders to discuss the formation on a coalition government. The next few hours will tell if President Obama and Secretary of State will hear his new request for support or follow the example of the Bush administration and remain silent.