Egypt's highest court cancels 5-year prison sentence for 5 female students

Wednesday 25-05-2016 03:49 PM

Female Egyptian al-Azhar University who were arrested in December 2014 over "violence" in campus. Image from the Facebook page of "Freedom for the Brave," an initiative that seeks to provide support to detainees.

CAIRO, May 25 (Aswat Masriya) – Five Egyptian female university students sentenced in 2013 to five years in prison each over “violence” on campus will have their appeal heard by the Court of Cassation, the court ruled on Wednesday. 

The Al-Azhar University students were arrested in December 2013 and faced charges that included “protesting without obtaining permission from concerned entities,” “threatening to use violence,” and “terrorising their colleagues at university.” 

In February 2014, a misdemeanour court sentenced them to five years in prison and fined them 100,000 Egyptian pounds (around $11,264) each. 

But the Court of Cassation, the highest judicial body in Egypt’s court system, accepted the students’ appeal and cancelled the ruling, and it is set to hold a retrial. 

The five students have served more than two years in prison and they are still in custody. Their lawyer told Aswat Masriya that they will file a complaint requesting their release.

Shortly after the court announced today it has accepted the appeal, Freedom for the Brave, an initiative that provides support for detainees, hailed the ruling on its Facebook page as "good news". 

"Congratulations," Freedom of the Brave said. "The injustice done to them will start to be lifted after [they spent] two years and a half in jail."

Separately, the Court of Cassation acquitted on Saturday 36 male Azhar University students who have been serving a five-year jail sentence since December 2013, also over clashes that took place on campus. 

Egypt’s Al-Azhar university witnessed protests by students and violent clashes between students and security forces in the wake of the July 2013 military ouster of then-President Mohamed Mursi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, following mass protests against his rule. 

Students' protests intensified particularly after security forces' violent dispersal of two pro-Mursi protest camps, commonly referred to as the Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda sit-ins. Rabaa's dispersal left more than 600 protesters dead, according to the state-affiliated National Council for Human Rights.

A number of state-owned universities, such as Cairo University, banned all on-campus student political activity in 2014.

A protest law issued in 2013 requires assembly organisers to notify security sources of their plans in advance, granting the interior ministry the right to cancel protests.

The controversial law, described by Human Rights Watch as "deeply restrictive" and by Amnesty International as "draconian", sets prison sentences ranging between two and five years for those who violate it.

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