Egypt’s prosecution referred on Sunday five Al-Azhar University students to a military court on charges of attacking a vital state institution, after the Cairo Criminal Court announced that it lacks sufficient jurisdiction to rule in the case.
The defendants were arrested at the beginning of the year, and were charged with joining a “terrorist group” as well as setting fire to a room in the engineering faculty of Al-Azhar University, possession of Molotov cocktails, and rioting.
The referral of the students to a military court is the first application of the controversial decree issued by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in late October, which says that those accused of crimes against the state’s “vital” state institutions may be subject to military prosecution.
The law was issued after Al-Sisi’s consultations with the National Defence Council, following two deadly attacks in Sinai that left at least 30 military personnel dead. Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson said on Monday that the law’s “absurdly broad provisions mean that many more civilians who engage in protests can now expect to face trial before uniformed judges, subject to the orders of their military superiors.”