The Court of Cessation acquitted five female Al-Azhar University students on Wednesday, after they spent three years in prison for violence, but Wednesday also saw 14 Alexandria University students sentenced to three years in prison on similar charges, lawyer Mahienour al-Massry told Mada Masr.
The case of the Al-Azhar students dates back to December 2013, when students Alaa al-Sayed, Afaf Ahmed, Hanady Ahmed, Rofaida Ibrahim and Asmaa Hamdy were arrested during confrontations between Muslim Brotherhood students and security forces. They faced charges of belonging to a terrorist organization, attacking security personnel and protesting without permits.
Nasr City Misdemeanour Court sentenced the five students to five years in prison and a LE100,000 fine each in 2014. The Court of Cessation then accepted an appeal by their lawyers. Massry said the female students were acquitted after spending three difficult years in Damanhour and Qanatir prisons. She added that Ibrahim Ragab, the fiancee of one of the acquitted women, Asmaa Hamdy, was forcibly disappeared one week ago, after spending three years waiting for Hamdy’s release. His whereabouts remain unknown.
In the other trial, Alexandria Criminal Court just sentenced 14 engineering students at Alexandria University to three years in prison on violence charges. Massry explained that their case dates back to October 2014, when police forces clashed with Muslim Brotherhood students organizing a protest on campus. The violence left one student, Omar al-Sherif, dead.
Massry said lawyers filed complaints accusing security of storming the university’s campus and killing the student, but the complaints were not investigated. These students also faced charges of manslaughter, protesting without permits, violence, rioting and belonging to a terrorist organization.
The students have been jailed for two years and two months, and will have to spend 10 more months in prison, Massry added.
A wave of violence broke out after thousands of students belonging to the Brotherhood protested inside several universities, including Al-Azhar, Cairo, Mansoura and Alexandria universities, following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
The protests led to the jailing of thousands of students, and hundreds others were suspended from their studies. Twenty students were killed, allegedly at the hands of police forces storming campuses. A report by Egypt’s Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) said this was the worst crackdown on academic freedoms in the past 72 years.
“The data collected by the association showed that the academic year of 2013/2014 lacked all measures granting the right to education,” the report said. “The universities were no longer a safe space for learning, due to continued clashes between scores of students and police in most universities, where police used tear gas bombs and pellets inside and around campuses. This resulted in a hazardous and dangerous atmosphere for the lives of the students and faculty, leading to threatening the peacefulness of education to a great extent inside in various universities.”