Egypt court overturns prison sentences for 17 Al-Azhar students in rioting cases
El-Sayed Gamal El-Din, , Sunday 17 Apr 2016

Egypt's Court of Cassation overturned on Sunday three-year jail sentences for 17 Al-Azhar students convicted of rioting in December 2013.

In March 2014, the defendants were convicted on numerous charges including rioting, thuggery, attacking police officers, protesting without a permit, joining an armed terrorist group, and destroying public and private property.

The 17 defendants appealed the sentences successfully, and a retrial has been ordered by the court, though it is unclear whether the students will be released pending trial.

Al-Azhar University, which follows the Al-Azhar institute – the highest seat of Sunni Islamic learning – saw frequent clashes between supporters of president Mohamed Morsi and security forces in the months following his 2013 ouster.

Many students were expelled by Al-Azhar's high board over their participation in protests that turned violent in 2013. Most of the expulsions were later overturned by Egypt's Administrative Court, which said it was safeguarding students' "educational future and welfare."