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Egyptian police using 'excessive force' against student protesters: Amnesty

The international rights group said police fired pellets and teargas during clashes with university students this week

Ahram Online, Friday 17 Oct 2014
File photo: May 20, 2014, riot police fire tear gas towards supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood during a demonstration at Cairo University (Photo: AP)

Egyptian security forces used excessive force to crack down on student demonstrations at Alexandria University on Tuesday, Amnesty International said in a Friday statement.

Clashes erupted on Tuesday 14 October between Egyptian police and students in Alexandria University who were protesting increased security measures and the detainment of several of their colleagues.

Since the start of the new academic year on Saturday, protests have erupted across a number of universities nationwide at the heightened security measures on many campuses. The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL), that deems former president Mohamed Morsi's ouster a "coup," called for a new round of protests — dubbed "Students are the Knights of the Revolution," to commence the new academic year.

The London-based human rights group said in its statement that it had collected evidence that Egypt's police "shot teargas inside the building and used firearms and pellets randomly against students when it was not necessary."

The same evidence was mirrored by students' testimonies of the incident. One of the students, according to media reports, Omar Abdel- Wahab, is in a critical condition after sustaining birdshot injuries to his neck and both his eyes. 

The prosecution ordered the detention of 16 students, arrested in the Alexandria clashes, pending investigations on charges of illegal protesting, belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, attacking police, injuring other students, sabotaging public and private properties and rioting.

Amnesty has called for the immediate release and dropping of charges for all those arrested "merely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly."

“Across the world, universities have provided a fertile ground for debates and dissent. This should be praised as a sign of a vibrant youth activism rather than crushed,” the statement read.

Before the start of the new academic year, the Egyptian minister of higher education said that police would not enter campuses as they had last year during protests and demonstrations. As a result, Falcon private security firm was hired to secure the entrances to 15 public universities.

University protests and clashes between police and students were commonplace last year following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. 

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