Cairo court sentences students to 17 years in prison for attacks on Al-Azhar

Ahram Online, Wednesday 13 Nov 2013

Students are accused of rioting and attempting to storm the headquarters of Al-Azhar, the ancient seat of Sunni Muslim learning

A misdemeanour court on Wednesday sentenced 12 university students to 17 years in prison over riots at Al-Azhar institution in October, Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported.

The students were found guilty of attempting to storm the headquarters of the institution, inciting riots and attacking Al-Azhar employees and security personnel, as well as sabotaging public and private property.

They were also ordered to pay a fine of LE64,000 each.

The general-prosecution received a complaint on 30 October accusing protesters of "gathering at the Sheikhdom, pelting the building with stones, attempting to storm it and insulting Al-Azhar grand imam and security personnel."

They were referred to the Criminal Court on 6 November.

Students of Al-Azhar University had staged a protest at the Sheikhdom against the institution they say has supported ousting Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president. 

Hub of protests

Egyptian universities have become a hub of protests in support of Morsi after the Muslim Brotherhood was hit hard by a sustained crackdown campaign by security forces.

Protests have repeatedly spiraled into violence while dozens of students have been arrested since the start of the new academic year in September.

On Sunday, Egypt's prosecutor general ordered that 43 students of Al-Azhar University be sent to a Misdemeanor Court. The defendants are accused of causing riots on campus on 26 October.

Egypt's university campuses have been witnessing tense and sometimes violent demonstrations since the new academic year commenced September.

Pro-Morsi students have been protesting against the interim government, saying the army staged a "coup" against the country's first freely elected president when it deposed him in July amid mass protests against his rule.

In late September, four students were expelled from Cairo University for "assaulting" former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, who was on campus for a thesis presentation.

Chaos broke out as pro-Morsi students shouted insults and expletives at the cleric, and held up their shoes as a sign of disrespect. Gomaa left shortly afterwards.

The article was corrected to reflect that the incident occured on October not April

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