23 Al-Azhar students expelled amid ongoing crackdown

Ahram Online: Al-Azhar University has expelled almost two dozen students and referred tens of others for investigation over violence-related charges, amid an ongoing crackdown on student activism, Al-Ahram daily reported.

This is the latest in a series of expulsions at the prestigious Islamic university, a haven for protests and dissent against the government, in attempts to avert another year of unrest.

University head Abdel-Hay Ezzat on Tuesday dismissed 23 students and ordered investigations into 62 others over their alleged involvement in violent protests at the university.

Students across the country have been protesting since the start of the new academic year to denounce a government crackdown on student dissidents and the imprisonment of their colleagues at previous protests.

In late October, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi issued a decree amending a law regulating Al-Azhar, the world's highest seat of Sunni Islamic learning, to allow the expulsion of staff members and students in cases of involvement in violence or "acts obstructing the educational process."

At Cairo University, a faculty member was suspended on Tuesday by Gaber Nassar, the school's president, over charges of taking part in a protest by Islamist students.

Last week, the cabinet approved new amendments to a university statute, allowing university chairs to expel staff members for rioting and taking part in or inciting violence, among other charges.

Critics say the changes do not allow for necessary legal disciplinary procedures and jeopardise the independence of universities.

Egyptian universities have been hit by unrest during the past academic year, serving as a hub for protests following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and a relentless clampdown on his supporters.

Several students have been killed in the clashes, and hundreds of others arrested or handed jail terms on charges of violence.

Demonstrations during this academic year have beem much smaller and less violent.

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