By Mai Shams El-Din
CAIRO: Five students from the German University in Cairo (GUC) are filing two lawsuits against the university’s administration claiming they were arbitrarily suspended by the disciplinary board.
“The university’s administration called for a silent protest to mourn GUC martyr Karim Khouzam, who was killed in the Port Said massacre. It turned into an angry protest condemning military rule,” GUC Student Union President, and one of the suspended students, Amr Abdel Wahab said in a conference organized by the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) on Sunday.
“After the protest, we presented a list of demands to the administration, including removing the name of ousted president Hosni Mubarak from the university’s main board, removing his picture from the official website and building a memorial for Khouzam,” he added.
The Feb. 1 Port Said football massacre that left 71 dead, and ensuing protests, during which security forces have used teargas and birdshots to disperse crowds, left 15 dead and over 2,000 injured.
Abdel Wahab said that days after the protest at GUC, he and four students were summoned by the administration for an investigation, without being notified of the reason behind this.
“We discovered that we were referred to a disciplinary board headed by Dr Ibrahim El-Demery, which later decided to indefinitely suspend two of us, and temporarily suspend the rest for two weeks,” he said.
El-Demery was transportation minister when an Upper Egypt train was set ablaze, leaving tens killed, in 2002.
The anniversary of the train tragedy coincided with the date of the investigation with the students, which led other protesting students to chant against him and accuse him of being responsible for the tragedy, calling him a “killer.”
The university’s administration considered this an insult in an official statement, denying that students were expelled due to their political affiliations.
“The students expelled, whether temporarily for two weeks (three students) or permanently (two students previously summoned and formally warned by the disciplinary action committee), were expelled due to verbally abusing and insulting the disciplinary action committee members and slandering them in a way unacceptable from a university student — and not on account of the students’ political inclinations,” GUC President Mohmoud Abdel Kader said in an official statement released March 1.
“The motive behind all previous disciplinary actions have been purely educational and administrative and had nothing whatsoever to do with politics,” the statement added.
Abdel Wahab, however, said, “We stated facts and did not insult anyone. El-Demery is politically responsible for the train massacre.”
A teaching assistant was also temporarily suspended for three months for participating with the students in the protests.
A group of students decided to start a hunger strike until the administration revokes its decision to suspend their colleagues and the teaching assistant, as hundreds of students from GUC and other universities protested in front of the main gate of GUC’s campus in the Fifth Settlement.
Students from the American University in Cairo and other universities also decided to go on a hunger strike in solidarity with those expelled from GUC.
Parents of the protesting students criticized the university for not allowing students to protest on campus.
“This is extremely inhumane for the university to leave the students protesting in the cold outside and not allowing them inside,” Dr Mohammed El-Saedy, representing the parents’ board, said.
Ahmed Hassan, vice president of the GUC Student Union who was suspended for two weeks, said that he did not participate in any of the protests.
“Another student also named Moustafa Eissa was suspended for two weeks without participating in the protests; he was at home during the events, and he missed the discussion of his graduation project last week as a result,” Hassan said.
He added that Moustafa El-Sheshtawy was also suspended for two weeks and denied entry into the university’s campus although he had already graduated.
“Those students did not participate in the protests in question, but they played an active role last year in the struggle to form a student union and establish new student bylaws,” Hassan said.
He said that expelling these students aims to demoralize them and crack down on their activities.
The university also accused the expelled students of storming the campus and destroying and vandalizing property.
“The university has several times warned against getting into buildings, obstructing the educational process, and assaulting colleagues in order to preserve the educational process and to guarantee the safety of the students themselves. Official correspondence dated March 1, 2011, March 22, 2011, November 13, 2011, and finally February 22, 2012 was sent to that effect,” Abdel Kader said.
AFTE representative Fatma Serag said that the expelled students were not officially notified with the accusations made against them.
“They only received phone calls and were not allowed to figure out the legal basis on which the disciplinary board depended to punish them,” Serag said, adding that the students only knew they will be subject to an investigation, not standing before a disciplinary board.
Serag also said that the charges against them were too general and did not state which student was responsible for what.
“The administration warned the students and then expelled them one week later, which means they received two penalties for the same charge which is illegal,” Serag said, adding that the punishment is too severe and disproportional with the stated accusations.