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Arrests in post-Mursi Egypt raise concerns

CAIRO, Nov 17 (Aswat Masriya) Tens of people, including students, have been rounded up and detained since Mursi’s ouster, which raises the question of whether the country is heading towards a brighter future. 

Twelve students were sentenced to 17 years last week on charges of possessing light weapons and of raiding and vandalizing Al-Azhar, the most prestigious Islamic institution.

Similarly, hundreds were arrested last month on the 40th anniversary of the October 6 War where thousands rallied to celebrate the army’s victory while others marched to denounce what they view as a “military coup”.

Abdullah Hamdy, 20, is one of 46 students who were arrested on October 6, where some of the detainees were as young as 12 and 14 years old and over ten of them were under 18.

All those who are under 18 were only temporarily detained then released for not meeting the legal age of detention.

According to Hamdy’s detention records, which Aswat Masriya recieved a copy of, supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi and Muslim Brotherhood members tried to raid Tahrir Square but were stopped by civilian volunteers who then clashed with them.

The records say that the detainees fired shots and rubber bullets on the residents as well as the police and army forces securing the area.

They also show that police and army forces intervened to disperse the confrontations between the rivals and arrested the 164 suspects.

Hamdy has denied that he was armed and said that civilian volunteers handed him over to the authorities around midday “for no apparent reason” and “not from clashes”, his older brother told Aswat Masriya.

Hamdy, a Mechanical Engineering student at The American University in Cairo, said he was in the vicinity of the university’s downtown campus when he was captured.

The 164 detainees mentioned in Hamdy’s detention records were arrested in different areas and at different times but all charged with the same allegations.

Other records of this nature were created at different police stations across the capital on the same day, Abdullah’s attorney told his family.

Hamdy, like many Egyptians, voted for Mursi and although, according to his brother, he does not belong to the Brotherhood, he is critical of the “coup”.

Egypt’s army ousted Mursi in July in response to mass demonstrations across the country and the collection of millions of petitions asking him to resign.

Since Mursi’s ouster, his supporters and Muslim Brotherhood members have staged demonstrations to denounce the army’s actions and call for Mursi’s reinstatement.

Some of those who join these demonstrations did not support Mursi and do not belong to the Brotherhood but are against military rule.

In August, security forces violently dispersed two pro-Mursi sit-ins, killing at least a thousand people, and hundreds of Brotherhood supporters have been arrested in the past three months.

The Brotherhood’s Mursi became Egypt’s first democratically elected president exactly a year before his ouster upon defeating Ahmed Shafiq, who served as Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister.

Mursi and his top aides are now standing trial on charges of inciting violence over the past year.

According to a Facebook page created by his family and friends, Hamdy says, “Fear is defeat and despair is betrayal.”

Ahmed Ezzat from Egypt’s Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression said that many students are being put on trial on charges of political nature.

He added that the judiciary must be neutral and not involve students in the current political struggle so as not to hurt their futures.

The lawyer and rights activist described the 17-year sentence that the 12 Azhar students received last week as “very harsh”, explaining that it violates the criminal code as the maximum sentence should have been three years.

A prosecutor adjourned Hamdy’s case to December 7 last week.

Article by Arwa Gaballa, Aswat Masriya.

This article was originally published here.

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