Egypt court sends 38 Al-Azhar students to jail

Ahram Online, Thursday 21 Nov 2013

Cairo Misdemeanor Court has handed 38 Al-Azhar students jail terms for stirring riots; new protests erupt at Al-Azhar University

Azhar university
Egyptian security forces inside Al-Azhar university in Cairo, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 (Photo: AP)

Cairo Misdemeanor Court sentenced Thursday 38 Al-Azhar University students to one year and a half in jail for stirring riots.

The students were arrested during clashes with security forces in October, in Cairo's eastern neighbourhood of Nasr City.

The sentence came as dozens of Al-Azhar engineering students demonstrated to denounce the death of a colleague, killed Wednesday in clashes with security forces.

The students gathered in front of the Faculty of Engineering building, chanting against the military, as security was strengthened outside the university campus.

The student shot dead by birdshot pellet Wednesday in clashes with security forces at Al-Azhar University was a supporter of deposed president Mohamed Morsi. Police stormed the campus and violence flared as students threw petrol bombs, bricks and stones at security forces who replied with teargas and birdshot. Sixteen students were also arrested.

The violence came hours after the university administration banned protests on campus and suspended student union activity in response to the turmoil sweeping the university. It also called on the police to guard its buildings and quell student unrest.

Since the start of the university year, Morsi supporters have been organising near-daily demonstrations on university campuses — particularly Al-Azhar University — to protest the ouster of Morsi at the hands of the military 3 July, following mass protests against his rule.

The government announced in October that police forces would be permitted to guard universities from outside campus grounds. University heads were also authorised to invite police forces to enter university premises. Police forces are also allowed to intervene after upon authorisation of the prosecution.

Also Thursday, the Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, said in a statement that the country's top security leaders bore responsibility for the incident. The party said Egypt's military chief, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, and the country's interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, were responsible for the violence.

The statement also said Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb and University Dean Ossama El-Abd bore responsibility for "the blood of the martyrs and the wounded." It demanded El-Abd submit his resignation.

Earlier in November, 12 university students were sentenced to 17 years in prison over riots at Al-Azhar Institution in October. They 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.

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