University guards arrest powers raise tempers

The decision to grant arrest powers to university guards earlier this month continues to cause tensions among university students. 

At a conference titled “Revolutionary Egypt’s constitution” held at Cairo University, students chanted against the new arrest powers and called for the minister of higher education to repeal them, the privately-owned Al-Masry Al-Youm reported. 

Minister of Higher Education Hossam Eissa had to leave the conference, saying that he has no authority to cancel the decision, which was not taken by him in the first place, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported. 

“I found out about the decision by coincidence when I read about it in the newspapers,” he was quoted as saying. He added that the quest to control university campuses was pursued by his predecessor, Mostafa Mossad, who had requested that the Higher Council of Universities form a committee that sets security criteria on campus. He had also requested, according to Eissa, that 300 university security guards be granted arrest powers by the Ministry of Justice. 

At the same conference, Gaber Nassar, head of Cairo University defended the arrest powers saying that they were only granted to the head of security within universities and the head of gates, Al-Wafd newspaper reported. He also said that the decision means security problems on campus will be solved without resorting to the police, thereby sparing universities violence and acts of thuggery and preserving university stability. 

Meanwhile, students affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood protested the power arrests granted to security guards, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported. At Cairo University, they raised signs reading “one student movement” and vowed not to let go of their freedoms. The newspaper also reported that some students intended to start a sit-in. 

Some university figures have supported the arrest powers as a means to combat violence that could spill over into campuses in the wake of the unrest following the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi by the military on July 3. 

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