By Mai Shams El-Din
CAIRO: The Administrative Court revoked on Sunday a decision by the administration of the German University in Cairo to suspend four students for two weeks for their participation in a protest on campus.
“Two of the four students were expelled and two were suspended for two weeks. While we filed the lawsuit, the university’s disciplinary board decided to dilute the expulsion penalty of the first two students to two weeks’ suspension,” Fatma Serag, lawyer from the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), which represents the four students, told Daily News Egypt on Sunday.
“We decided to continue our legal battle and requested that the university administration revoke all the penalties,” Serag added.
The university’s decision was broadly condemned by the GUC student community, with hundreds of students protesting against the administration for almost two weeks in front of the campus.
“The university’s administration called for a silent protest to mourn GUC martyr Karim Khouzam, who was killed during 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 AFTE early March.
“After the protest, we presented a list of demands to the administration, including the removal of ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s name from the university’s main plaque, the removal of his picture from GUC’s official website and building a memorial for Khouzam,” he said.
Abdel Wahab said that days after the protest at GUC, he and four students were summoned by the administration for an investigation, without being given any further details.
“We discovered that we were referred to a disciplinary board headed by Dr Ibrahim El-Demery, which later decided to expel two of us and temporarily suspend the other two 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, which led other protesting students to chant against him and accuse him of being responsible for the tragedy, calling him a “killer.”
In an official statement the university administration described this as an insult, but denied that students were expelled for to their political views.
“The suspended and expelled students were punished for verbally abusing and insulting the disciplinary action committee members and slandering them in an unacceptable way, not on account of the students’ political inclinations,” GUC President Mahmoud Abdel Kader said in an official statement released March 1.
Serag said earlier that the expelled students were not officially notified of the accusations they were facing.
“They only received phone calls and were not allowed to figure out the legal grounds employed by the disciplinary board to punish them,” Serag said, adding that the students only knew that they will be subject to an investigation, not to disciplinary action.
Serag also said that the charges against them were too general and did not pinpoint 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 was too severe and disproportionate with the stated accusations.
Meanwhile, students of Alexandria’s Pharos private university are facing a similar ordeal as nine students were suspended by the university administration for holding a strike on campus.
According to a statement by AFTE, the expelled students had protested early March against the addition of two core courses to the curriculum, which they believe to be a form of exploitation by the administration to increase tuition fees.
The students were referred by an internal university investigation committee to a disciplinary board which expelled six of them for two semesters and the other three for one semester.
“The university’s bylaws allow the expelled students to appeal the decision and the administration decide on whether or not to accept the appeal within 15 days,” Serag said.
“If the university does not respond to the appeal in 15 days, we will take it to court just as what we did in the case of GUC students,” she said.