Six Islamists suspended amid crackdown on academics

Egypt’s main state-run Cairo University has suspended – for alleged corruption – six professors linked to the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, as a crackdown on Islamist academics persists.

The university said that the six lecturers, including former higher education minister Mustafa Mosa'ad, were suspended from jobs in the institution’s engineering school pending investigation for working with a private consultancy firm without permission.

“Their work in this company has been done without the university’s knowledge or notification,” the institution said in a statement. “They have worked at this company for eight years while at the same time they have received full salaries and remunerations from the university in a violation of the law.”

Under Egyptian law, university lecturers are only allowed to combine an academic job with working at a government agency for two days a week on a secondment basis.

“We have documents proving that the six professors have worked full-time at the private company for 45,000 Egyptian pounds [US$5,000] monthly while receiving a full pay from the university,” said the President of Cairo University Gaber Nassar.

“This violation has gone on from 2008,” he told private newspaper Al Watan.

Nassar, a law professor, said the institution would also interrogate unnamed officials at the university “for covering up this case of corruption”.

Not a political move, says university

He denied that the six professors had been suspended for their links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which the army removed from power in 2013 following massive protests against its one-year rule.

“Affiliation to the Brotherhood is not a crime in itself. We do not have a law stating that a member of the teaching staff should be suspended or dismissed for belonging to the Brotherhood,” Nassar said. “However, the law punishes anyone committing an offence or found guilty of inciting or involvement in violence.”

Dozens of Islamist lecturers and students have been expelled and jailed in Egypt after being convicted of inciting or involvement in violence in the months that followed the military’s 2013 ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, a senior official in the Muslim Brotherhood.

Last year, the state-run Zagazig University sacked Morsi from his job as an engineering lecturer after he was convicted in several court cases.

In October 2015, Cairo University sacked Morsi’s advisor Seif Abdel Fattah for being absent from his job as a lecturer in the school of political sciences.

Earlier this year, the university terminated the service of four lecturers at the same school for working with foreign agencies based in Egypt without permission from the university.

Suspended professors dispute case

The six Islamist professors recently suspended by Cairo University dispute the case against them.

“Our legal situation is sound,” said Adel Abdel Gawad, one of the six lecturers. “When we set up this company, we got approvals from the then prime minister, the engineering faculty’s board and the university’s administration.”

Abdel Gawad denied that his work at the company negatively affected his job as a lecturer.

“I am fully committed to my teaching schedule at the faculty as students and records can testify. Everyone acknowledges my devotion to my work as a professor,” he added.

“Moreover, our company has been confiscated and is being run by a committee from the Justice Ministry.”

In recent months, the Egyptian government has seized the assets of dozens of businesses owned by Islamists on suspicion of providing financial support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which authorities designated as a terrorist organisation in late 2013.