Sixty-four Al-Azhar students will be tried Wednesday in an Abbasiyah Court. The charges filed against them stem from the university’s ongoing protests and include “rioting, disrupting public order and security, damaging public property, assaulting security personnel and protesting without authorisation,” state run Al-Ahram reported.
A number of the students were allegedly involved in an incident in which a group of students broke into a university office and “destroyed a number of important documents” and reportedly set fire to parts of a building housing administrative offices.
Al-Ahram Arabic reports that “air-conditioners, photocopiers, and a number of offices” were destroyed in the blaze. The report also mentions that a number of cars were destroyed, and students suspected of the attack were arrested with Molotov cocktails and firearms.
The students allegedly belong to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood organisation, recently declared a terrorist group by interim president Adly Mansour. Taking part in a Muslim Brotherhood protest is punishable by five years in prison, while organising a march is punishable by death.
The number of students that referred to court Wednesday differs, from 64 reported by Reuters to 71 reported by Al-Ahram Arabic.
Al-Azhar, considered the preeminent seat of Sunni-Islamic studies in the world, has been rocked by constant protests since the school year began in September, with protests gaining force in October.
Early January, 26 Al-Azhar students were sentenced to two and a half years in prison with hard labour for “taking part in protests organised by Students Against the Coup (SAC), violence at Al-Azhar dorms, vandalism and belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood”.
Universities across the country have seen a number of deaths since the school year began, the most recent occurred on 16 January at Cairo University, when security forces stormed campus after a SAC protest. One student was shot dead with live ammunition.
Additional reporting by AbdelHalim H. AbdAllah