CAIRO: A total of 34 Al-Azhar University students will be retried over their involvement in 2014 riots at the college, according to a Cassation Court ruling Sunday.
The students had been sentenced to 3-5 years in prison, and the Appeal Court upheld the penalty, but the challenge filed before the Cassation Court, the final litigation step, was accepted.
The top court’s ruling “is a message to all those who question the integrity of the Egyptian judiciary, which is very keen to apply the law away from politics,” head of the defense team Anwar Refaei told Youm7.
The challenge said the trial did not provide for fair defense and included poor investigations and evidence, Refai said.
The defendants were charged with vandalizing the university in January 2014, resisting authorities, possessing firearms and Molotov cocktails, disrupting public roads and transportation, arson, and assaulting policemen.
On April 20, the Cassation Court also revoked a jail sentence handed to five Al-Azhar students, and they will be retried.
They had been sentenced to five years in prison for sabotaging public and private properties, using force and blocking roads outside Al-Azhar University dormitories on May 13, 2014. An appeal court commuted the sentence to two years in prison, but the challenge was eventually accepted by the Cassation Court.
Sixteen Al-Azhar University students were ordered released pending retrial April 18 during their third hearing. The case dates back to October 2013, when the defendants allegedly sabotaged their university and used violence against citizens. They had been sentenced to 3-7 years in prison.
Hundreds of students, especially from Al-Azhar University, were arrested and sentenced during the 2013-2014 academic year after massive protests against the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. Although many of them had their sentences commuted or revoked and others were granted retrials; many of them have been jailed during all the procedures.
Several buildings inside Al-Azhar universities were torched and sabotaged during the protests, and some students were killed during confrontations with the police.