Police deny Cairo University student arrested for possessing Orwell’s ‘1984’

A security official denied rumors circulating on social media that a Cairo University student was arrested for possessing George Orwell’s novel “1984.”

“None of us knows anything about this novel in the first place,” Head of the Investigations Unit at the Giza Security Directorate, General Mahmoud Farouk said.

Farouk confirmed in a phone interview with Mada Masr that the student, identified as Mohamed T, was arrested because he was filming security forces stationed around Cairo University, not for possessing the novel. The student has been referred to prosecution for investigation, he added.

Police forces stationed around Cairo University were the target of two bombings earlier this year. The first took place in April, claiming the life of one police general, and the second occurred in October, leaving 11 injured. Sinai-based jihadi group Ajnad Misr claimed responsibility for the two bombings.

The privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper was the first to report the story, referencing a charge sheet recording that the student was in possession of a novel addressing the “dictator and corrupt military regimes,” and a notebook that contained references to the Islamic caliphate.

Farouk explained that the novel was only listed as part of the personal belongings found with the student, “which is a legal and routine procedure, conducted in order not to be accused of stealing any of the defendant’s personal belongings.”

Lawyer at the Academic Freedoms Unit of the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) Mokhtar Mounir told Mada Masr that the novel will most likely be used as evidence against the student during interrogation.

“Although confiscating all the personal belongings of defendants is routine procedure, we have a history with many students who have been arrested with novels that are used as evidence against them,” he explained.

He referred to the case of a student arrested this year from his home: “Part of the confiscated evidence included two studies about academic freedoms released by AFTE and books on Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna.”

Mounir also referred to cases of the “café detainees,” a group of students arrested a few months ago from a café close to Al-Azhar University. Books, novels and flash drives with revolutionary artwork were part of the confiscated evidence used against them. Al-Azhar student Sarah Khaled also spent eight months in jail for carrying a pin with the Rabea sign on it.

Even the accusation of filming police forces is illegal according to Mounir. “As long as the student is filming in a public place, there should not be any legal penalty according to the Penal Code, but the recent crackdown on freedoms in public space has made random arrests the easiest thing police can do,” he added.

This article has been amended to note that Al-Masry Al-Youm referenced the charge sheet on student Mohamed T, not Farouk.