The Nasr City prosecution renewed on Saturday the detention of 174 Al-Azhar University students for 15 days; the students are accused of inciting riot.
The students, who include 23 females, were held in the backdrop of on-campus violence which occurred on 28, 29 and 30 December 2013, with the start of the semester’s final exams, the Al-Azhar University student union said.
The university’s student union condemned the renewed detention in a statement released on Saturday. The union described the detention as a “desperate attempt to scare Al-Azhar’s free students and break their stubborn will.”
A group of Al-Azhar University female students staged a protest outside the National Council for Women’s headquarters on Saturday to condemn the renewed detention of their female colleagues.
Violence resumed for three days in Al-Azhar University since exams officially began on 28 December 2013. One student was shot dead with live ammunition while taking his test. The Ministry of Interior had announced the arrest of at least 101 students during the clashes, adding that the police found Molotov cocktails, fireworks and pellet guns with those arrested.
Mohamed Nagi, a researcher at the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression’s (AFTE) Student Observatory, said that students’ detentions are renewed on an almost daily basis.
“The students are not referred to trial and are not allowed to attend their exams, despite the pressure exercised by their families and by AFTE,” Nagi said. He accused the Ministry of Interior and the prosecution of exercising obstinacy towards the students.
On Thursday, the Nasr City Misdemeanour Court sentenced 26 Al-Azhar students to two years and six months in prison with hard labour.
The students are accused of taking part in protests organised by Students Against the Coup (SAC) movement, violence at Al-Azhar dorms, vandalism and belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, labelled by the interim cabinet as a “terrorist organisation”. The SAC is a student movement founded to denounce the military ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi.
The movement estimated the number of the detained students from Al-Azhar University to be at 230. The most recent count was made late December by AFTE’s Student Observatory, recorded at 206.
Al-Azhar demonstrations began in October protesting the death and detainment of fellow students since the dispersal of sit-ins at Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda Square, as well as Morsi’s ouster.