Nationwide student protests demonstrate against Mubarak verdict

Protests have broken out on university campuses across Egypt in response to Saturday’s court verdict dismissing charges against ousted President Hosni Mubarak and other key regime officials.

Some of these protests resulted in clashes with security forces and injuries, along with several reports of students being arrested.

In Greater Cairo, student protests were held in Al-Azhar, Cairo, Ain Shams, and Helwan universities, while other demonstrations were reported in universities in Alexandria, Zagazig, Kafr al-Sheikh, Minya, Fayoum, Beni Suef and Suez.

The protesters reportedly comprised a broad political spectrum – including Islamists, liberals, leftists, independents and other non-affiliated students.

Even state-owned news website Al-Ahram reported on Sunday that Egypt was witnessing “a university uprising.”

According to Al-Ahram, at least seven students were arrested at the main branch of Al-Azhar University, following scuffles with riot police that had been deployed around the campus in the eastern Cairo district of Nasr City.

At Al-Azhar University in the Upper Egyptian City of Assiut, female students were reportedly tear-gassed after marching to a square outside their campus while chanting against Mubarak and his regime. 

Meanwhile at the Al-Azhar’s campus in the Nile Delta city of Zagazig, seven students were reportedly injured in clashes with police forces.

Privately owned website Masr Al-Arabiya reported that the acting president of Minya University, Gamal Abul Magd, called for the deployment of police forces at campus after students began to chant against the police and military rule.

In response, riot police troops fired tear gas canisters into the campus while students fought back with rocks and fireworks.

Nine student protesters from the university were handed over to the police, after campus security personnel found firecrackers and fireworks in their possession.

“We will not tolerate any protests criticizing the army, police or judicial verdicts,” Abul Magd was quoted as saying.

Several local media outlets confirmed that a student union leader from Zagazig University, Mahmoud Sarhan, was arrested after riot police troops assaulted him with an electric prod or Taser-type device. According to reports, Central Security Forces have been deployed outside the university’s gates since Sunday morning.

According to Reuters news agency, another 10 students from Zagazig University were arrested, with staff claiming these students had damaged campus property.

In Egypt’s second city, Alexandria, a host of local media outlets confirmed that clashes had erupted between angry students at Alexandria University and police forces had been deployed around the campus. Photos from Sunday’s protests showed students chanting slogans, while other held burning flares, along with signs denouncing military rule.

Privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that scuffles had broken out between students and campus security personnel at universities in Alexandria and Cairo. One member of the private-security firm Falcon reportedly suffered a serious facial injury sustained during clashes at Cairo University, and was later transported to a nearby hospital for treatment.                                                                        

On Sunday, throngs of angry students led a protest march through the campus of Cairo University. In television broadcasts of the protest, several students could be seen expressing their discontent with Saturday’s court verdict by carrying zucchinis while chanting “kossa” – the Arabic word for zucchini – in a reference to crookedness, nepotism and favoritism.

Students at Cairo University also chanted the old Arab Spring slogan: “The people demand the fall of the regime,” while raising several other slogans against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the Interior Ministry.

According to news website Masrawy, the protests that started around noon and eventually turned violent when riot police forces stormed Cairo University – near the adjacent Metro station – and fired volleys of teargas inside the campus. Students are reported to have pelted the police with rocks.

In its coverage, Al-Ahram reported that students of Kafr al-Sheikh University chanted against military rule, while denouncing the Cairo Criminal Court’s dismissal of charges against Mubarak and his regime on Saturday. Student protesters are reported to have chanted: “It’s a rehearsed play…the ruling gang is the same.”

This state-owned outlet claimed that police were deployed in force outside Kafr al-Sheikh University merely to ensure the flow of traffic. No arrests of student protesters were reported in the Nile Delta city. 

Scuffles between angry students were also reported in universities in Fayoum, Beni Suef and Suez. Police fired teargas at student protesters in the three universities, and there were reports of injuries amongst the students’ ranks – although no arrests were confirmed.

Al-Masry Al-Youm later posted a video of student protests in Cairo’s Helwan University showing hundreds of students marching through the campus. They chanted slogans including: “The Ministry of Interior are thugs” and “We either reclaim the rights of our martyrs, or we die fighting for them as revolutionaries.”

At Cairo’s Ain Shams University, hundreds of university students marched around their campus, and while chanting against police brutality, avoided clashing with police forces that were deployed outside.

Mainstream website Al-Dostour claimed that police have been on standby outside the campus since Sunday morning, standing guard ahead of possible threats posed by “terrorist” students affiliated to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

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