Police to return on campus if security plan fails: Cairo university head

Ahram Online , Thursday 30 Oct 2014

There is a difference between freedom of expression and committing violent acts, says Cairo University President Gaber Nassar

Cairo University President Gaber Nassar (Photo: Reuters)

The president of Cairo University, one of Egypt's oldest learning institutions, said police will return to university campuses if the current security plan fails.

In an interview published Thursday by news website Aswat Masriya, founded by Reuters, Gaber Nassar discussed violence at universities which has broken out nationwide after the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

He rejected the current protests as being viewed simply as "expressing opinions," insisting they're acts of violence that include storming university gates and writing defamatory statements about the university and faculty members – which he said don't qualify as freedom of expression.

"We are open to all political factions, but committing violence is something else," he told the website.

Egyptian universities and the government have taken several moves recently and in the past year to control recurrent protests mainly carried out by pro-Morsi students.

These have included banning student societies belonging to political groups, giving university administrators the right to expel students without resort to disciplinary committees and hiring a private security firm to search students entering campuses for explosives and/or weapons.

In the interview, Nassar defended such moves.

He said politics are not banned from universities, but party-work is, saying students were never allowed to carry out party politics at Egyptian universities. He also said students who were arrested were apprehended by police for violating the country's protest law, insisting universities can't obstruct the rule of law.

Egypt's interim government passed a protest law in late 2013 which bans all but police-sanctioned demonstrations.

Hundreds of students have been arrested during clashes with police and sometimes apprehended from their homes for charges related to instigating and being involved in violence.

Rights groups have counted over 19 students killed in clashes with police since late 2013.

The university president rejected the idea of dialogue, saying the protesting students aren't willing to engage in talks.

"When a student storms the university gates with Molotov cocktails and fireworks and knives, what dialogue are you talking about?" he asked.

Nassar criticised reports of random student arrests that circulated last year, and said the university is only responsible for students on campus grounds. He also criticised a government decision to directly appointment faculty deans, instead of by vote as before.

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