Amnesty International calls for release of Mansoura students

Amnesty International released a statement on Friday demanding the release of three female students who were arrested last November at a protest in Mansoura University.

The three students were arrested on November 12 following violent clashes between police forces and students protesting against the removal of former President Mohamed Morsi.

The verdict for the three female students, who range in age from 18 to 21, was originally scheduled for Saturday, but was postponed until Sunday.

The women are charged with belonging to a banned organization and protesting without permission, as well as charges of thuggery, attacking security forces and destroying public property. 

State-owned Al-Ahram reported on Saturday that the security presence around the Mansoura Courts Complex was increased on Saturday in anticipation of the verdict and its backlash.

According to Amnesty International, the clashes that broke out in Mansoura University campus in November led to 70 injuries. After university security failed to contain the situation, state security forces entered campus in armored vehicles, dispersing students with tear gas and arresting 23 students, including the three women on trial.

The London-based human rights organization also says in its statement that eye-witnesses, in addition to a letter sent from university security office to the prosecution office, testify that the women only took part in the protest but did not participate in the violent escalations – leading them to conclude that the women are being punished for their political stance.

“The authorities seem determined to punish anyone who expresses dissent, irrespective of facts,”  Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International, said in the statement.

“The Egyptian authorities must stop treating peaceful protesters like criminals. The relentless crackdown on demonstrations, freedom of expression and independent reporting must end,”  she adds.

Protests by students who are against the removal of former President Mohamed Morsi broke out in universities across the country since the start of the current academic year in September. Amnesty International says that at least 500 students have been arrested during protests and clashes since July.

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