Thursday, January 04, 2007

Petition for Academic Freedom

On December 14, the Egyptian State Security Police conducted mass arrests of students and faculty members associated with the Muslim Brothers organization at al-Azhar University in Cairo. Reports about the number of those arrested vary between 140 and 180 people. Under the current emergency laws, those arrested could be detained indefinitely. It is common knowledge that the State Security Police often use torture in their investigation of political detainees. The arrests were made in the wake of a demonstration organized at al-Azhar University on December 10 in which the demonstrators wore headbands that resemble those worn by members of the Palestinian and Lebanese Islamic resistance and demonstrated their skills at Karate and Kung Fu. The government press has presented the demonstration as a militant and violent act and has called thestudents “al-Azhar militias.” Not a single act of violence has been proven against the students and the disputed government claims revolve only around minor property damage. The demonstration was part of a larger series of protests by Egyptian university students on many campuses, including the two largest, Cairo and Ein Shams. These protests, which have included other demonstrations, strikes, sit-ins, and petitions, are directed against the persecution and harassment of active students and faculty members critical of the current regime, and their exclusionfrom student unions and university faculty and administrative committees. Such persecution continues to be carried out by security personnel on and off campus. We, the undersigned students and faculty, express our solidarity with the detainees and affirm our belief that university studentsand faculty are entitled to freedom of expression, regardless of their political views. We demand the immediate release of the detained Egyptian students and faculty of al-Azhar and other Egyptian universities and the exclusive use of due legal processesin their prosecution should it be proven that they have been involved in illegal or unconstitutional activities.

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