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Freedom for the Brave wary of verdict in Al-Azhar students’ appeal

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Movement calls for reversing a court ruling sentencing 12 students to 17 years in prison

Egyptian policemen in plain clothes inspect the ransacked administration building of al-Azhar University in Cairo on October 30, 2013.  (AFP PHOTO / KHALED KAMEL)

Egyptian policemen in plain clothes inspect the ransacked administration building of al-Azhar University in Cairo on October 30, 2013.

The Freedom for the Brave movement is warily awaiting the verdict in an appeal against a court ruling sentencing 12 Al-Azhar students to 17 years in prison each for attacking Al-Azhar institutions.

The students were sentenced in mid-November last year by the Cairo Misdemeanour Court with an EGP 64,000 bail each for breaking into Al-Azhar Institution on 30 October. The Gamaleya Misdemeanour Court of Appeals is scheduled to issue its verdict regarding the appeal next week.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Freedom for the Brave described the initial court ruling as “politicised”, adding that the sentenced students were “scapegoats in the war the current regime is waging against the Muslim Brotherhood”.

The movement noted that such harsh sentences were never served to police officers responsible for the death of protesters since the start of the January 2011 revolution.

Freedom for the Brave stated that two employees from Al-Azhar institutions were summoned as witnesses in the case; they failed to recognise any of the defendants as assailants who attacked the institution. The movement added that the prosecution failed to provide any evidence implicating defendants.

The November verdict breaches Article 32 of the Penal Code, Freedom for the Brave said.  The article stipulates that if several crimes are committed for the same purpose and are interconnected in a manner which makes them indivisible, they are to be considered one crime and a ruling shall be passed inflicting the penalty that is prescribed for the most serious of these crimes.

Under the aforementioned article, the 12 students should have been sentenced for the most severe of their charges, illegal assembly, which is punishable by three years in prison. The students were also sentenced for assaulting public employees and displaying force.

The movement called on the court to serve the students a “fair trial” and “protect their academic future”.

Of the 12 students, only one student, Moaz Abdel Rahman, managed to pay the bail and was therefore released from custody. He is the only student who was able to sit for his mid-year exams.

In a press conference organised by the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) last November, families of some Al-Azhar student detainees stressed that their children were randomly arrested.

Student protests have taken over Al-Azhar University since the start of the academic year in October. Protests are mostly organised by the pro-Mohamed Morsi Students Against the Coup movement and often devolve into clashes with security forces.

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