Amnesty International is monitoring the situation of three Mansoura women who were sentenced to jail “solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly”.
On 21 May, two 18 year-old students, Abrar Al-Anany and Menatullah Al-Belehy, were sentenced to two years in prison, while Yousra Al-Khatib, 21, was sentenced to three years. International rights watchdog Amnesty said: “They are prisoners of conscience”, and is calling for urgent action for the trio.
The three were arrested in November and have faced trial before Mansoura Criminal Court’s “terrorism circuit” for alleged participation in protests that involved clashes inside Mansoura University last November.
Amnesty said: “Eyewitnesses and university security officials had testified that the three women had not been involved in the clashes.” According to the watchdog, they were found “guilty of protesting without authorisation, belonging to a banned organisation that uses ‘terrorist methods’, ‘thuggery’, attacking the security forces and destroying public property”.
The trio was not brought to court for the verdict session and only learned about the sentence days later when their families visited them in detention.
Their sentencing was part of a trial in which 17 male students were sentenced to 5 years and a professor to 7 years “for pushing the students to protest”, a defence lawyer said.
A day before the verdict was issued, Human Rights Monitor, a London-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), submitted a complaint to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention calling for the immediate release of three women detained from Mansoura University last November. According to HRM, the women were physically and verbally attacked in addition to being subjected to a full cavity body search.
This academic year has been the most violent for Egyptian universities as student protests frequently turned into clashes with security forces. The total death toll from the clashes reached 14 confirmed deaths as of April, 5 of which had occurred during the first semester. The second semester was one of the shortest in Egypt’s history, after the government delayed its start twice.
Although Al-Azhar University was at the epicentre of the violence, throughout the year, clashes have also erupted in the universities of Cairo, Ain Shams, Mansoura, and Alexandria. Hundreds of students have been arrested and several dozen expelled.