Egypt to try 71 Azhar students for joining Brotherhood

Hundreds of students have been tried in civilian courts after violence on campuses

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Egypt’s prosecutor general Monday referred to trial 71 students of the prestigious Al-Azhar University on charges of joining the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and holding illegal protests, a judicial official said.

Hundreds of students have been tried in civilian courts after violence on campuses, bastions of pro-Islamist activists since the army’s overthrow of president Mohammad Mursi in July 2013.

The students from Al-Azhar, the highest seat of learning in Sunni Islam, indicted on Monday were arrested in separate clashes with security forces since the October start of the new academic year, the official said.

They are being charged with taking part in unauthorized protests, rioting, assaulting security forces and joining the Muslim Brotherhood, which Cairo has branded a “terrorist group”, the official added.

The authorities have enforced new regulations to limit student protests on campuses calling for Mursi’s re-instatement, many of which degenerate into clashes with security forces.

In November, five university students were referred to military trial for allegedly torching a university building during a pro-Mursi protest.

The measure was applied under a law passed in October expanding the army’s powers to try civilians.

At least 14 students were killed on campuses in the last academic year in clashes with security forces, while one student has been killed since October.

A government crackdown on Mursi supporters since the army ousted him has resulted in at least 1,400 people dead and thousands jailed.

Several leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Mursi, are themselves on trial in cases which carry the death penalty if convicted.