CAIRO: Amid escalating detentions for university students and teaching staff, remands are turning into a form of punishment as students are prevented from exams without being investigated, according to interviews conducted on Monday.
Egyptian law gives the prosecution the right to renew detention for 150 days, and detainees may remain in custody for up to two years without being investigated, said Ramy Eid Saad, a lawyer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
“The legal condition of renewing detention is the ’provision of enough evidence,’ which is a broad term and needs legal amendment,” Saad told The Cairo Post Monday.
The repetition of the remand period, witnessed lately in an excessive way, is far from the spirit of the law, said political and human rights activist Laila Soueif, who is also mother to activists Alaa Abdel El-Fattah and Mona Seif.
“The remand has turned into punishment,” she said.
There are many students and teaching staff members at different universities who have been randomly detained over the last period, added Soueif, who is an assistant mathematics professor at Cairo University.
“Among the 30 students detained at Cairo University on January 16, two students were accused of violent actions and chaos although they were doing their exams at the time of clashes,” she said.
As for the teaching staff, Soueif referred to April statistics that report 160 members were detained.
“All the detainees, both those who have received verdicts or not, should be released, as the judiciary has recently made a lot of mistakes,” she said.
Mohamed Ihsan Abdel Qodos, a member of Press Syndicate, said during a Monday conference titled, “The universities: problems and solutions,” that there is a strong link between the oppression practiced against students and the mass death sentence verdict issued Monday against 682 alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters.
He added, “It is the corrupted and biased judiciary.”
Monday witnessed the issuance of many critical legal verdicts, including the final death sentence for 37 of 528 defendants by the Minya Criminal Court, which was appealed by the Attorney General. Another ruling also issued today by the Court of Urgent Affairs banned the activities of the April 6 Youth Movement.
Freedom for students campaigns
The Freedom for the Students Campaign is one of the student advocate groups that was originally established in August 2013 to defend detained students.
Saeed Abdel Ghani, one of the founders of the campaign, said during the conference that “the universities have turned into detention zones, where students are not even detained during participation in protests, but while attending their lectures.”
“My friend Salah el-Din Mohamed, who is a co-founder of the campaign, was detained while he was searching for one of the detainees who was arrested at the Metro station,” Abdel Ghani added.
Approaching the final exams, the campaign launched an initiative calling to enable the detained students to take their exams, continued Abdel Ghani.
Furthermore, he noted that there are many students who were detained and no one knows their detention location, citing as an example Amr Rabei, an engineering student who was detained at a still unknown location March 12.
Noura el-Sayed, a founding member of The University for Students Campaign, which is a non-partisan campaign that opposes arbitrary measures, said that university administrations refer students to disciplinary councils and take arbitrary procedures that might reach up to a one-year suspension or a final expulsion.
“Thirty students were expelled from Al-Azhar University in April without investigation, and those students will not be accepted at any other university,” she said. She noted that during the last few months, Al-Azhar University’s administration suspended a number of students every week amid escalating clashes between students and security forces.
About eight students were also referred to disciplinary councils at the Alexandria University for “strange charges,” added El-Sayed.
She continued, “They were accused of threatening national security, assaulting teaching staff, cursing the educational system in Egypt and cursing the Ministry of Tourism on Facebook.”
Moreover, she said that some students are suspended without even knowing the reasons behind their suspension, noting the suspension of four students of the Faculty of Engineering at Helwan University.
“The students were then referred to the disciplinary council over charges of damaging public installments and assaulting security forces when they complained about their unreasoned suspension,” she said.
El-Sayed added that Cairo University’s administration has used compulsory measures against students who it accuses of chaos and violence, however it ignored the harassment incident that occurred last month at the university, and the students who were recently shot inside the lecture halls allegedly by security force bullets.
Islam Hamzawy is a law student at Cairo University who was recently suspended from on-campus housing. He told The Cairo Post on Monday that he was surprised to see his name among suspended students without knowing the reason.
“After a long time of searching for the reasons, I found a lawyer who is responsible for cases related to the university housing who then told me that I am accused of being an Al Jazeera photographer and for threatening the security of the on-campus housing,” Hamzawy said. “Which is not true.”