The undersigned organizations strongly condemn the verdict by Al Gamaleya court of misdemeanor in case no. 7332/2013 on the 12 November 2013 to sentence 12 student at El Azhar university to 17 years in prison and a bail of 64 thousand LE for non implementation of the sentence.
The students had been arrested during their demonstrations in front of the Azhar chiefdom on the 30th of October last, protesting the arrest of a number of their colleagues and to express their opposition to the current authority which they consider illegitimate. During their protest members of Azhar security attacked the students with knives, arrested a number of them and held them inside the Azhar chiefdom premises before handing them over to El Gamaleya police, which documented the incident and summoned the prosecution, which interrogated the students inside the police station.
The organizations recognize that the arrest of the students and putting them to trial is a violation of the right to demonstration and freedom of expression. The harsh sentences and conditioning their release with payment of such a high bail is a violation of the right to a fair trial. The organizations also reiterate that demonstration and expression of opinion through peaceful means is a human right, which Egyptian authorities must respect and protect and that the current political conflict in Egypt should not be used as a pretext to violate the right of any person to a fair trial.
Based on the above, the undersigned organizations believe that the respective court was at fault in impartial implementation of the law and supporting the freedom of individuals. Aside from the accusations made by the prosecution against those students, being true or false, the court has dealt with cruelty against the sentenced students, by punishing them for all charges raised by the public prosecution, despite that they are all related to their arrest during their protest in front of Al Azhar chiefdom. This is considered a flagrant violation of the provisions of the Egyptian penal code which obliges criminal courts, in the case of multiple related, indivisible crimes for the same purpose, to consider them all one crime and sentence the maximum penalty for those crimes.
Also, the court ordered the students to pay a bail of 64 thousand LE as condition to stop the execution of the sentence and their release until the time of appeal, scheduled for the 4th of February 2014. Only one student could afford to pay this sum, while the rest of the students are still in detention until now. This very high sum for a bail and the remote date set for the appeal, according to which the students will remain in prison, indicates a tendency to harass those students, raising the possibility of a vengeful nature of the verdict, politically motivated and totally unrelated to the necessary respect and indiscriminate enforcement of justice.
The undersigned organizations believe that the security driven policy towards the students movement at the current time threatens the independence of the university and the future of students rights and freedoms in Egypt, and raises concerns regarding the imposition of a tight security grip on campus life. During previous months, university administrations have abandoned reacting to student breaches though the specified disciplinary punitive measures and decided it was easier to leave the students prey to the authority of the police, with no regard to the impact this may have on their educational career or its impact on the escalation of acts of violence inside universities as well as deepen the rapidly increasing societal split in view of the ongoing political conflict.
Finally, the undersigned organizations call upon Al Azhar University to fully bear its responsibility and to immediately intervene and pay the necessary bails to release the students sentenced in the above mentioned case. Otherwise its position would indicate approval of the detention of those students until the time of their appeal, a matter of grave consequence to their academic career.
- Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
- Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
- Nazra for Feminist Studies
- Appropriate Communications Techniques for Development (ACT)
- Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
- Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance
- Hisham Mubarak Law Center
- Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
- Andalus Center for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
- El Nadeem Centre for psychological rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture
- Land Center for Human Rights