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Jailed Egypt opposition leader questioned again

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CAIRO, Feb 23 (Reuters) Egyptian jailed opposition leader Ayman Nour was questioned by the public prosecutor today about allegations that included injuring an official from the president's party during presidential elections.

Nour came a distant second to President Hosni Mubarak in the September vote and his Ghad (Tomorrow) Party then lost its seats in the parliamentary elections that followed later in the year.

Nour accused the government of abuses in both votes.

In December, after the parliamentary vote, a court jailed Nour for five years for forging signatures used to establish his party in 2004. Nour says those charges were fabricated to keep him out of politics and has launched an appeal.

''They say that on (presidential) election day I hit someone from the National Democratic Party (NDP). This is a barefaced and fabricated case. We have truth on our side and our victory is very, very near,'' Nour told supporters during the hearing.

The official from the ruling NDP complained in his report to the prosecutor that Nour injured him in his hand at a polling station in Bab al-Shaariya, the area Nour represented in parliament until he lost his seat in parliamentary elections.

Depending on the seriousness of the injury, Nour could face between one and five years in prison if found guilty, judicial sources said.

The presidential elections passed calmly unlike most other votes in Egypt, which have often been marred by clashes.

But in parliamentary elections, voters clashed with riot police who blocked access to many polling stations where opposition candidates were expected to do well.

Monitors accused the government of widespread abuses in both presidential and parliamentary votes. The government says the polls were free and fair and also says that Nour's conviction on forgery charges are a court matter.

Nour's wife and spokeswoman, Gameela Ismail, said Nour also faced other allegations that included insulting the president and another involving erecting a statue of a popular Egyptian singer, although it was not immediately clear what crime he had committed by putting up the statue.

Ismail said she was also questioned about complaints from two police officers that she beat and injured them. She described those allegations as an attempt by the government ''to terrify opposition and their families and supporters''.

Dozens of Ghad supporters gathered outside the public prosecutor's room in the Cairo court building, chanting slogans backing Nour, who attended the hearing in a civilian suit rather than prison overalls.

REUTERS MP HS2204

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