The Cairo Military Criminal Court is scheduled to issue a verdict on 17 March on nine people accused of setting fire to Al-Azhar University’s gate.
The defendants were arrested from their homes in November 2014, and charged with ruining public properties, carrying flammable items, and weapons, in addition to belonging to a terrorist group. Four of the defendants are fugitives, including one who is living abroad and is accused of sedition.
The location of the defendants’ detention facility remains unknown since November, according to the defendants’ lawyer Ahmed Osman, who works with the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE).
Osman told Daily News Egypt: “There are additional names for defendants whom we know nothing about.” He added: “The person who reported the incident told the police there were only five people, but the prosecution has accused nine.”
Referring the defendants to a military court is expected to result in harsher sentencing and grim opportunities for visits during imprisonment, according to Osman.
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi issued a two-year decree in 2014 that potentially refers any person accused of damaging public buildings and facilities, such as gas stations and electricity networks, to military court.
The prosecution referred 240 defendants to military tribunals over charges of storming a church and the police station in Minya, state media reported. The incident took place in August 2013 after the violent dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-ins in Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda Squares.