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Egyptian court ruling may save Islamist’s presidential campaign

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CAIRO -- The presidential bid by ultraconservative Islamist Hazem Salah abu Ismail appeared less in jeopardy Wednesday after an Egyptian court ruled that it had no proof his mother was a U.S. citizen, a revelation that had threatened to upend his campaign.

But the court’s verdict on his candidacy contradicted a statement by the country’s election commission suggesting that authorities had documents proving his late mother held an American passport. The election commission is expected to announce its decision on the case in coming days.

The state news agency MENA reported that the court ordered the Interior Ministry to certify that Ismail’s mother “has never held another nationality other than her Egyptian nationality.” State TV reported, “Hazem abu Ismail has become a candidate again.”

Hundreds of Ismail’s supporters cheered when news of the court’s ruling spread outside a Cairo courthouse. Ismail, a lawyer and a preacher, is a leading candidate in next month’s election. Documents showing that his mother was a U.S. citizen, including travel papers and California voter registration records, had embarrassed Ismail, whose campaign is heavy with anti-American rhetoric.

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It was not clear Wednesday why there was a discrepancy in documents submitted to the court and the election commission. Ismail and Muslim Brotherhood candidate Khairat Shater are the leading Islamist contenders in an election that is likely to decide how deeply sharia, or Islamic law, will influence Egyptian public life after last year’s overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.

The country’s new election law stipulates that a candidate’s spouse and parents must be Egyptian citizens.

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-- Jeffrey Fleishman




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