Egyptian authorities unexpectedly freed opposition politician Ayman Nour on Wednesday after more than three years of imprisonment on forgery charges he said were politically motivated.

Analysts said the move could be aimed at gaining favour with the new administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

“Thanks to God I am released,” Nour told Reuters by telephone from his home in Cairo, where he was taking calls from well-wishers and journalists. “I am in my house. That is the only thing I know now.”

Prosecution sources said Nour, the main challenger to Hosni Mubarak in Egypt’s first multi-candidate presidential election in 2005, had been freed on health grounds. His release came as a surprise to his wife Gameela Ismail, who has worked tirelessly for his freedom.

“I don’t believe it … We are all in shock. It is also very confusing,” she said, adding that she had rushed home on learning of his release. “When I entered I found him praying.”

Nour vowed to continue his work in politics through his liberal opposition Ghad party, and his wife said he planned to resume his role at the helm of the party.

“I am going to practise my role as a politician through the Ghad party and through my previous role,” he added. Egyptian law prohibits him from seeking public office barring a presidential pardon.


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