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Court restores ministry-affiliated security to university campus

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Verdict described by AFTE Student Observatory researcher as “worthless”

Egyptian students of the al-Azhar university throw stones at riot police outside their university camps in Cairo, on October 20, 2013 (AFP Khaled Desouki)

Egyptian students of the al-Azhar university throw stones at riot police outside their university camps in Cairo, on October 20, 2013
(AFP Khaled Desouki)

The Cairo Urgent Matters Court restored on Monday an earlier decision appointing security personnel from the Ministry of Interior to secure university campuses.

Until 2010, the Ministry of Interior was responsible for providing Homeland Security personnel to secure universities. In 2010, the Supreme Administrative Court banned this decision, establishing “administrative” university security. The decision came into effect after the January 2011 uprising.

Mohamed Abdel Salam, researcher at the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression’s (AFTE) Student Observatory, described Monday’s verdict as “worthless”, adding that it is not legally binding, since the Supreme Administrative Court is the highest judiciary body, and therefore the only body that can rule on the matter.

Abdel Salam doubted that the verdict will be implemented in university campuses. “The current regime is wary of taking the decision to install ministry-affiliated security inside campus,” he said. “For them, keeping policemen at university gates is sufficient for the time being.”

Security forces were first allowed into Al-Azhar University after violence erupted on the university campus on 30 October.

Shortly afterwards, Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi announced that police forces would be present at the gates of all public universities to help maintain security. El-Beblawi’s cabinet gave university presidents the right to request the entry of police forces on to the campus in the case of “threats to individuals, property or students”.

Monday’s verdict is a result of a lawsuit filed in protest over the “riots and demonstrations” taking place on university campuses and stalling the educational process, reported state-run news agency MENA. Students Against the Coup, a student movement decrying the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi, has been organising on-campus protests nationwide since the start of the previous semester in September 2013. Protests have frequently resulted in violence, especially after security forces intervened.

Abdel Salam said that should Monday’s verdict be implemented, the on-campus violence Egypt’s universities witnessed throughout the previous semester would only “worsen”.

“The police are practically incapable of maintaining on-campus security,” Abdel Salam said. “So long as no political solutions are offered to resolve the conflict between students supporting Morsi and university administrations, any security approaches will fail.”

Egypt’s student death toll reached four in 2013 after clashes erupted at several university campuses. The deaths occurred in November and December 2013 in Cairo University and Al-Azhar University.

On 23 January, a student was killed on the Alexandria University campus after a student protest escalated to violent clashes.

In December 2013, the Supreme Council of Universities decided to allow police forces on campus during mid-year exams.

This academic year’s second semester was slated to begin on 8 February. The semester’s start was postponed twice by El-Beblawi’s cabinet, citing security reasons.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the cabinet announced that the new semester should begin on 8 March, pending renovations to university buildings and dorms “after being vandalised through riots exercised by misguided students” during the previous semester.


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