By Jihad Abaza
A Cairo court postponed on Tuesday a ruling until 22 July in the first appeal for two American University in Cairo (AUC) students detained since December. The two detainees will be moved to Abou Zaabal prison.
The students were charged with belonging to a terrorist organisation, planning to kill a police officer, and blocking traffic.
“We’re expecting that the appeal will be continuously delayed. This is what happened before the verdict came out, they had already been detained for five months,” said Omnia Farrag, a political science student at the AUC.
“It is completely unfair,” she added. “All they did was go out and express their opinions.”
Abdel Rahman Boghdady and Abdallah Ghandour were arrested after a protest from a side street in Nasr-City on 20 December, 2013 and have been detained since.
On 29 April, Boghdady and Ghandour were each sentenced to five years in prison. The same day, students interrupted an honours ceremony at the AUC, chanted for their colleagues, and stood in a silent stand outside the assembly.
Boghdady, a mechanical engineering student in his final year, was due to receive an “honours” award at the same ceremony.
The next day students protested the verdict of their colleagues by holding a sit-in outside of the AUC president, Lisa Anderson’s office. The students demanded that the university administration intervene in the verdict as it had previously done so in cases pertaining to American students.
On 4 May, the students escalated their protest actions by blocking Road 90 in Tagammu, and demanding the release of their colleagues.
“This is an oppressive regime that treats all Egyptians and all opposition with force,” said Omnia Farrag. “It doesn’t make a difference whether you’re an AUCian or a non-AUCian”, she continued.
Other AUC students have not been excluded from the wider events in the country.
More recently, Nader Osama, a 2nd year student, was arrested and withheld by police forces for a few hours after taking part in an anti-sexual harassment protest on 15 June.
“We’re concerned about what is happening in the rest of the country and we have a statement to make,” Osama said, “we don’t necessarily identify as just AUCians, we can be active elsewhere. We have something to give.”
Abdallah Hamdy, an Engineering student, was arrested from Ramsis on 6 October 2013, while partaking in a march, but was acquitted two months later.
Ahmed Sonbol, previously a teacher’s assistant for the Biology department at AUC, was killed during the dispersal of the Rabaa Al Adaweya sit-in supporting fromer president Mohamed Morsi last August.
Omar Mohsen, who was an economics student at the university, was killed in violence at the Port Said football stadium in 2012.
Throughout the academic year, students at AUC have protested through small marches, demonstrations, silent stands, and meetings. AUCians Against Military Rule (AAMR), Thwar, and the AUC United Front (AUF) are among the on-campus movements calling for the release of Boghdady and Ghandour.
“Two of our own remarkably outstanding honors AUC students are amongst those thousands who have been sentenced to prison for the next five years, the equivalent of the average time spent in university,” read a statement the students passed out at the AUC graduation ceremony.
“Anyone who knows Boghdady and Ghandour can bear witness to the ridiculousness of the charges that have been made against them as they were overachievers both academically and in all their community service and sports activities,” the statement said.