Police, students clash at Egypt universities

Universities have become key battlegrounds for students who oppose the military-backed authorities

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Police fired tear gas to disperse pro-Islamist students protesting at Cairo University and two others in the southern city of Assuit on Tuesday after 15 demonstrators at al-Azhar University were arrested the day before.

Amid a heavy security presence in the Egyptian streets and the closure of several main protest squares such as Tahrir, Rabaa al-Adawya and Ennhada, universities have become key battle grounds for students who oppose the military-backed authorities.

A security official told the Associated Press that the students were trying to march out of the Cairo University’s campus toward a large central square close by.

In addition to firing tear gas at the students, the police set up barbed wire to close off access to the university and deployed more armored vehicles as reinforcements, the official added.

The Ahram Online website reported that seven students were arrested by authorities around the campus gates.

Small clashes also broke out at two universities in Assuit, where police fired tear gas at rock-throwing students. Security official Maj. Gen. Abu el-Qassem Abu-Deif said 18 students were arrested, the Associated Press reported.

Demonstrators chanted slogans against the Interior Ministry and demanded the trial of its leaders on claims of suppressing student demonstrators at both al-Azhar and Cairo Universities.

Since Sunday, students at the Islamic Al-Azhar University in eastern Cairo have clashed with police in a rally in support of 20 of protesters who have been arrested and charged for protesting against the military-backed authorities.

On Monday, the clashes broke out at the campus with at least three security vehicles torched in the violence, and dozens of students were arrested.

An interior ministry statement said about 200 students belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood “blocked roads outside the university, pelted stones and Molotov cocktails at citizens and police forces.”

Student spokesman Mahmoud Salah said hundreds of students went on strike on Tuesday in solidarity with university staff members who he said were beaten by security forces a day earlier, according to AP.

The unrest that followed the ouster of former President Mohammad Mursi on July 3 has led the death of more than 1,000 people. Over 2,000 others were reportedly detained, including top Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

Meanwhile 10 local and 3 international rights groups on Tuesday urged Egyptian authorities to establish a fact-finding committee to acknowledge and investigate the crackdown. They also called for sweeping reforms of security agencies that some say have rarely been held accountable for any abuse or use of excessive force.

The groups, which included some of Egypt’s most prominent rights groups as well as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, said the killing of 50 protesters by security forces during Mursi’s tenure as well as some 80 demonstrators during the transitional period of military rule immediately after the 2011 uprising also were never investigated.

“Over the past two and a half years, in spite of overwhelming evidence gathered by human rights groups, the Interior Ministry has denied any wrongdoing on the part of the police in any incident that led to deaths,” the groups said in a statement, AP reported.

“In all of these incidents, prosecutors have selectively investigated only protesters on charges of assault after clashes with security forces and ignored the steadily rising death toll among protesters.”

The groups called on the government to set up an independent fact finding committee, make the findings public and launch institutional reform to avoid repeated violations.

(With the Associated Press)

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