The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) denounced Sunday Alexandria University’s decision to cancel a lecture that was scheduled to be given on Wednesday by Egyptian NASA scientist and former presidential advisor Essam Heggy.
Heggy announced, via his Facebook account, that the cancellation was due to “security reasons”, and apologised to all students who had wanted to attend the lecture. He added that the lecture was expected to discuss the discovery of water on Mars.
ANHRI commented on the incident, saying it represents an “international scandal” for the Egyptian government, adding that the cancelation of the lecture “will not make Egypt more secure”.
The lecture was expected to attract a huge audience, which initially entailed a change of location to accommodate the large number of students. However, later the decision to cancel the lecture came from the hosting faculty, only one day before it was due to be held.
The rights organisation attributed the lecture’s cancelation to Heggy’s political stances, which are known to be critical of the government. On several occasions, Heggy expressed his opposition to the government’s strategy in fighting terrorism.
Heggy also commented on the first stage of parliamentary elections days prior to the lecture’s set date, saying the Egyptian people have sent a strong message to the candidates and the state by not voting.
Born in 1975, Heggy is an Egyptian scientist who studied astronomy in Cairo University and then proceeded to acquire his doctorate from Paris in the field of planetary discovery, making him the first Egyptian scientist to hold such a degree. Heggy is currently working with US space agency NASA.
In 2004, Cairo University dismissed Heggy due to his criticism of corruption in the university administration, ANHRI’s statement recounted.
“This shows how political criticism can represent an obstacle to the realisation of academic freedoms and scientific development,” ANHRI stated.
ANHRI stated that the interference of security forces in the academic sphere represents a clear violation of academic freedoms and freedom of expression. It further called for opening investigation into the incident and demanded the cessation of security intervention in university activities.