37 pro-Morsi students referred to trial

Thirty-seven student supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi were referred to trial on Sunday in connection with protests at Al-Azhar University late in January, where clashes took place between protesters and security forces.

The prosecution referred the students to a misdemeanor court on charges of illegal gathering, vandalism of public property, and joining a terrorist group aiming to “disrupt peace and security” among others.

Securing universities was a challenge for the Egyptian government – reshuffled last week – during the previous academic term as university campuses hosted regular clashes between pro-Morsi protesters and police. Al-Azhar was a regular site for such clashes as dozens of students were arrested while four were killed according to Egypt’s forensics authority.

The unrest has led the government to postpone the current academic term on two occasions and recently issue a court-ruling allowing for the return of police on campuses. The current semester is set to begin on 8 March but there is already the possibility of demonstrations in opposition to the decision regarding police presence.

In an effort to calm tensions, the interior ministry has promised only to enter campus during exceptional circumstances.

Twenty-one Al-Azhar students were sentenced to three years in prison by a misdemeanor court in February. Another 38 were given a two-year sentence in November which was later appealed and reduced to one in February.

The Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist group by Egyptian authorities last December and continues to face a widespread crackdown from security forces. Hundreds have been killed and thousands injured in demonstrations which have become violent on occasion.

Police and army personnel have also faced attacks by militant groups who have killed dozens of officers and other members of the security apparatus primarily in Sinai and Nile Delta governorates.

Source : Ahram online