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>> The Guardian


by Salah Nasrawi Opposition leader and presidential hopeful Ayman Nour walked out of Cairo's central security headquarters Saturday and was whisked to the shoulders of his supporters after posting bail in a case that angered Washington and undermined Egypt's talk of democratic reform. Nour, in a white prison jump suit, stepped out looking frail, but blew kisses to the crowd of supporters. He flashed a V-for-victory sign from over their heads. Judicial authorities announced earlier Saturday that bail had been set at $1,725. ``I am so happy. Ayman is of the people, for the people. He was never a stooge of the authorities,'' his wife, Gamila Ismail, said. Nour was arrested on Jan. 29, accused of presenting fraudulent signatures in order to win the license for his party - but he was never formally charged and he and his supporters say the detention was political, aiming to eliminate him as a rival to the ruling party. Washington had joined the calls for his release. Nour last week announced his decision to run for the presidency since President Hosni Mubarak surprised the country last month by ordering a constitutional amendment to allow multi-candidate polls for president. Egypt had previously held presidential referendums in which people vote ``yes'' or ``no'' for a single candidate approved by parliament. Supporters trilled with joy, and threw candy in the air to celebrate Nour's release, bringing the main street in front of downtown Cairo's central security headquarters to a standstill. The ailing Nour was carried to a pickup truck, his aides trying to keep the swarming crowds from crushing in too close. His wife quickly stole a hug before the vehicle sped off toward the offices of a charitable organization he founded in a nearby neighborhood. Nour's Al-Ghad Party welcomed the prosecutor's decision. "Now we hope that Ayman will be referred to a fair and quick trial,'' said Ragab Hilal Hmeida, the party's secretary general. Al-Ghad has only seven legislators in Egypt's 454-seat parliament but the detention of the populist politician has drawn wide attention, partly because Nour champions a call for more than one candidate to be allowed to run in this year's presidential elections. International human rights groups had called on Egypt to release Nour, saying his detention is politically motivated. The prosecutoondoleezza Rice said she raised ``very strong concerns'' about Nour's detention when she met Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit in Washington last week.

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