The judge handling the legal struggle between Nile University and Zewail City at the Supreme Administrative Court recused himself from the case on Wednesday, citing “distress”.
Nile University has been fighting with Zewail City, established by Nobel laureate Ahmed Zewail, for more than two years over a piece of land that both universities claim to be their own.
The case was referred back to the State Council chairman to reassign it to a different district.
The Supreme Administrative Court ruled in April on the dispute, giving Nile University students the right to the disputed lands and buildings.
Zewail City filed an appeal to the verdict, stating that the Giza Court ruled in its favour in 2012. Zewail City called for stalling the Administrative Court’s decision, since it was appealed and going forward with the Giza court’s decision, because it was not appealed. It also called for a ruling on the two conflicting verdicts.
Zewail City welcomed the decision in a statement released on Wednesday. It reiterated its respect to the judiciary, adding that Wednesday’s decision “cements Zewail City’s legal stance” and proves its claim over the contested land.
Ahmed Nassar, head of the Nile University student union, said the students are “extremely upset” about the recusal.
“We realise that it’s a time-consuming process and that eventually, Zewail City’s appeal will be turned down,” Nassar said. “Yet, they remain inside the contested buildings while we remain outside. Therefore, it will be hard to get them to desert the building when the court rules in our favour.”
Since the initial decision of the Supreme Administrative Court in April, Nile University students have not yet been granted access to the disputed buildings. Zewail City accepted 300 students into the contested buildings at the beginning of its first academic year in September.
Nassar accused Zewail City’s lawyer, Mortada Mansour, of creating procedural roadblocks to stall the issuance of a final verdict. “This case requires patience and we will see it through,” Nassar said.
Nassar also accused interim Minister of Higher Education Hossam Eissa and scientific presidential advisor Essam Heggi of abandoning Nile University students. He added that the students would try to pressure the interim government to reach a solution where either both parties have a right to use the contested buildings until a final verdict is out, or they are both banned from using them.
Representatives from both universities met with Eissa and other ministers in September. At the end of the meeting, most parties except the Zewail City representatives agreed on granting students from Nile University access to one of the two contested buildings until a final court ruling is issued regarding the matter. The next day, Zewail City turned down the proposal citing legal concerns.