CAIRO — A Cairo University student was killed today in clashes with security forces, as a backlash grew over harsh sentences handed down to female Islamist demonstrators and a strict new protest law.
The engineering student was hit in the neck by a birdshot cartridge as police tried to push back Islamist students attempting to march from the university campus, the state-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported.
There were further clashes at the University of Alexandria on Egypt’s north coast, where students stayed away from classes in three institutes in solidarity with 21 young Muslim Brotherhood women who received 11-year sentences on Wednesday, Al-Ahram said.
A misdemeanors court in the city had convicted the 21 on charges of illegal assembly, destroying property and carrying weapons at a protest they held in support of deposed President Mohammed Morsi.
The court sent seven of the convicted demonstrators, who were minors, to a juvenile home, while the remainder, mostly university students, were jailed.
Defense lawyers have said they will appeal.
Morsi’s Brotherhood has condemned the verdicts as “false and unfair” and called for mass rallies Saturday to show solidarity with the girls.
Rights activists and some political figures also condemned the judgment.
“The continuation of issuing such politicized judgments by Egyptian judiciary members against activists in light of their political views (raises) ... doubts over the future of justice in Egypt,” the Cairo-based Arab Network for Human Rights Information stated.
Controversy over the harsh legal steps against Islamists was further fanned by reports that a secondary school student had been detained for 15 days by prosecutors investigating an accusation that he had an Islamist symbol on his ruler.
Teachers at a secondary school in Kafr al-Sheikh province called police when they observed the Rabaa symbol — referring to the Cairo protest site where hundreds of Islamists were killed by security forces in August — on the pupil’s ruler, the independent newspaper Al-Shorouq reported online.
Thousands of Morsi supporters have been detained since July when the army ousted him after mass street protests against him.
The military-installed authorities say the crackdown on Islamists is part of a campaign against terrorism allegedly incited by the Brotherhood.
Meanwhile, police arrested a prominent activist wanted for organizing an unauthorized protest in what was seen as a first test of a strict new law on demonstrations.
Alaa Abdel-Fattah was arrested at his home, the independent newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported, quoting security sources.
“Police broke into our house arrested (at)alaa and beaten me. They stole both our laptops and both our mobiles,” his wife, Manal Bahy Eldin, wrote in English on Twitter.
Prosecutors had ordered the arrest of Abdel-Fattah and Ahmed Maher, founder of the revolutionary April 6 Movement, for allegedly organizing Tuesday’s protest against a provision in the draft constitution allowing military courts to try civilians.
Both men have denied being organizers of the protest but said they would hand themselves in to prosecutors on Saturday.
Other activists arrested when police broke up the demonstration went on hunger strike after their detention was extended earlier today, Mona Mamoun of the No Military Trials group told the German news agency dpa.
President Adly Mansour on Sunday ratified a law requiring organizers to give three days’ notice of any protest to police, who may ban it if they believe it to be a threat to order.