About a hundred students gathered on Sunday at Ain Shams University to protest the imprisonment of student Amr Eissa, sentenced to three years by a military tribunal.
Eissa was arrested in Tahrir Square on 9 March when the military decided to disperse the sit-in that started during Egypt’s revolution, occupying Cairo’s central square and demanding the dismantling of the former regime.
University professor and rights activist Aida Seif El-Dawla objects to citizens being tried by military tribunals, saying “It never happens that a revolution hands over its power to the army.” She added: “These are not even military tribunals, because lawyers are not allowed to be present.”
Inside the campus where the students gathered banners hanging read, “Amr Eissa is not a thug, he is a student and a painter. No to military trials.” Eissa’s paintings were being displayed in front of the stage on which students were taking turns to voice their opinions.
One student on stage said that those held by the military are there because they fought for freedom, pointing out that if it was not for those who staged sit-ins and demonstrations such a rally could not have been held on the university’s campus. He added: “Before the revolution state security would have pointed out each and everyone of us gathered here and arrested us.”
Doaa Basiouny, another student, told Ahram Online that she could not have imagined staging a demonstration criticising the military in the middle of campus before the revolution. Basiouny also gave out flyers on the rights violations by the military against anti-regime protestors. The flyer states that women arrested were subject to harassment and torture.
As speaker after speaker took to the stage, an old woman in her seventies was standing opposite crying. She explained that both her grandchildren were arrested from Tahrir Square and tortured. “They are not thugs,” she repeated, as tears filled her eyes. She held a picture published in Al-Masry Al-Youm daily newspaper showing one of her grandchildren, Samir Hassan, as he was being arrested by military police and attacked by thugs.
Minister of Higher Education Amr Salama was also criticised by demonstrators for his statement defending an attack by military police on a university sit-in. Salama described the army’s way of dealing with university protestors as “civilised”, although students alleged that the military police dispersed protestors using electric tasers.
YouTube videos of the military’s intervention to disperse protestors at Cairo University have been circulating via social media networks, proving the army’s use of violence.
Lawyer Haitham Mohamadein explained that lawyers were not allowed to see or defend those accused by the military. As a member of the Front in Defence of Demonstrators, Mohamadein says: “We went to court looking for the detained but we could not find them. We learned that they were being tried in military prisons."
Actor Ali Sobhy, who was recently released from military prison, urged the students to keep on campaigning for the release of Eissa. He said: “I was released only because strong social campaigns were launched defending me and a journalist with me. If it were not for these campaigns they would not have released all of us. Social pressure is the only way any rights can be gained in this country and it has to continue.”
The students ended the rally with a performance by singer Mostafa El-Hag, a young artist at the university.