Some students expelled over protests are reinstated

Egypt’s higher education authorities have started reviewing the cases of scores of students expelled from universities for alleged participation in violent anti-government protests. More than 50 students have already been reinstated.

The review is aimed at defusing tensions in Egypt’s universities, which have experienced politically motivated unrest in recent years.

Cairo University, Egypt’s biggest state-owned academic institution, announced that it is reinstating 52 out of 140 students expelled in connection with protests that hit the university after the army’s 2013 ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The university has cancelled decisions to expel the 52 students after they and their parents signed written pledges not to participate again in subversive demonstrations on the campus,” Gaber Nassar, president of Cairo University, said last week.

“Parents of the returning students will cooperate with the university to ensure that they are disengaged from the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Nassar, a law professor. “This is the last chance for these students to stop misbehaving and shun violence.”

He added that his institution planned to reconsider all expulsions except those of students charged by prosecutors with criminal offences.

Violent backdrop

Cairo University is one of several state-owned academic institutions in Egypt that have been rocked by Islamist-led protests since Morsi’s overthrow.

The protests often developed into clashes with security forces inside and outside universities, resulting in mass arrests and many student deaths.

Several students have already been put on trial and received jail terms after being convicted of subversion and illegal possession of arms.

Since the start of the new semester in Egypt last October, authorities have tightened on-campus security and suspended several Islamist lecturers, allegedly for inciting anti-government protests.

The measures have restored stability to most universities, according to Minister of Higher Education El-Sayed Abdel Khalek.

“We believe that expelling students is not the best solution,” he said in press remarks. “We have resorted to dialogue with students and encouraged them to use peaceful ways of expression. We apply the expulsion policy only when it is necessary.”

Egypt has expelled around 400 university students since Morsi’s removal, according to the anti-government group, Students Against the Coup. More than 800 others have been temporarily evicted for terms ranging from a month to two years, according to the group.

There are no official figures.

Administrative disciplinary measure

“The expulsion decision is an administrative disciplinary measure, which can be revoked if the evicted student shows repentance and pledges to renounce violence,” said Abdel Khalek.

“This written pledge must be guaranteed by the student’s guardian. In case this pledge is not kept, the expulsion becomes final and the student has to pay for the cost of repairing the damage he has caused to the university facilities.”

“These expulsions are part of a series of abuses targeting universities in Egypt,” said Ibrahim Gamal, a spokesman for Students Against the Coup. “Killing, detaining and expelling students from universities will not stop them from continuing their revolution,” he told Al Jazeera television.

The Egyptian government has repeatedly accused the Muslim Brotherhood, already listed as a terrorist organisation, of manipulating students to destabilise the country. The Islamist group has denied any link to violence, accusing authorities of oppressing students.