Cairo University students, who are supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, are seen shrouded in tear gas from Egyptian security forces during a clash in front of the main gate of the university, in Cairo December 10, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)
Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said Sunday that security forces are not willing to intervene in universities unless violence or disruptions to academic procedures occur.
“The Ministry of Interior will not seek security intervention on campus. However, it still won’t allow any attempt of using violence or spreading chaos or attacking buildings during the academic term. We will strictly confront such attempts,” he said during a meeting with representatives of university heads, student unions and student families.
Meanwhile, Mohamed Badran, head of Egypt's Students Unions, told Al-Ahram Arabic news website that Ibrahim has vowed to release all detained students "as long as they're not convicted in criminal cases."
Since the beginning of the academic year last fall, university campuses have witnessed regular protests that have often turned violent, most of which organised by loyalists of former president Mohamed Morsi.
Security forces have frequently stormed campuses to break up protests, leaving a number of students dead and dozens arrested.
On 26 January, Interim President Adly Mansour announced that he had urged the prosecutor-general to look into the status of those detained pending investigations, university students in particular, and to order their release if proven innocent.
A statement from the public prosecution issued later stressed that Egypt has no political prisoners and that all those currently imprisoned "are being detained pending court or prosecution orders, or have received sentences from the respective courts."
In January, the Supreme Council of Universities amended the University Regulations Law to allow university heads to expel students involved in acts of sabotage or terrorism.
On-campus violence, along with a recent spike in cases of swine flu in Egypt, led to the postponement of the Spring 2014 term more than once. It is now scheduled to begin 8 March.
While police officers were banned from campuses by a High Administrative Court ruling in 2010, last Monday the Court for Urgent Matters ruled that police officers can be redeployed permanently on university campuses.