An Egyptian military court sentenced 15 Mansoura University students to up to ten years imprisonment on Thursday, according to the campaign group No to Military Trials for Civilians.
The students must also pay a fine of EGP 50,000.
The sentenced students include second year science student Israa Maher, who was given two years prison time, third year law student Said Mohamed who was sentenced to ten years, as well as students from the Mansoura branch of Al-Azhar University who were sentenced to three years prison time.
These rulings were made after “security forces raided Mansura University, assaulted the students, and arbitrarily arrested a number of students”, the group No to Military Trials for Civilians said.
These students were taken because they were present on-campus 28 October 2014 and they were taken to the prosecutor on charges of “possessing fireworks, white weapons, inciting leaflets, gasoline, books that contain radical fundamentalist thoughts, protesting without license, and for threatening general social well-being.”
The students were referred to military court after the October 2014 presidential decree no136 which stated that the armed forces will cooperate with police to protect public buildings and facilities.
Anyone guilty of vandalizing or attacking public property is thus to be tried in military courts.
An Alexandria military court also handed five to 15 year prison sentences to five people for allegedly attempting to bomb an Alexandria train. The court also sentenced in abstentia four more defendants to life-time imprisonment, according to the Egyptian Council for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR).
According to the ECESR, a number of eyewitnesses denied the military court’s allegations with one account stating that one of the defendants was praying in a mosque in Sidi Bishr when the alleged event took place.
A Human Rights Watch statement released In December 2014 said that Egyptian authorities have referred at least 820 civilians to military courts after President Abdel-Fatah Al-Sisi’s October decree.
According to HRW Ahmed Helmy, a lawyer who has previously represented defendants before military courts said he believes that authorities are “acting unconstitutionally” by retroactively applying the decree.