A Cairo misdemeanour court sentenced Thursday a bus driver to six months imprisonment and a bail of EGP 2,000 for accidentally killing a 19-year-old German University in Cairo (GUC) student.
The student, Yara Tarek, was killed on 10 March from injuries sustained when the bus ran over her on the university’s New Cairo campus.
Another three defendants, including drivers and bus supervisors, also received six-month sentences, although these are to be suspended, according to state-run newspaper Al-Ahram.
According to investigations by the New Cairo prosecution authorities, Tarek was passing by when a speeding bus came in her direction, Al-Ahram also reported. It ended up with the student being crushed between two buses, leaving the first-year Faculty of Engineering student with a skull fracture that led to her death.
The reported story initially stated that Tarek was killed when she slipped and fell in the waiting area for the buses, reportedly as one bus reversed and another one moved forward.
Tarek’s death had sparked outrage among friends and colleagues at the GUC, who responded to the incident by organising a sit-in demanding the questioning of the university’s transportation department regarding negligence of their lives. The protesting students also pointed to other accidents in which students were injured by buses.
Despite the ongoing academic term, the GUC announced the suspension of classes and activities in an attempt to end the students’ rally. The students, however, challenged the decision, and maintained their attendance at university every day to continue their sit-in, whilst also boycotting exams.
However, events soon took a more aggressive turn. On 15 March, students published a video on social media showing the president of the university leaving the campus in his car. The president, however, claimed the demonstrators attempted to assault him, in addition to claims of a confrontation with security forces on campus, as he appeared surrounded by them, but still reached his car and left.
On the other hand, students told the media they were only trying to make him stop and speak to them, after they and their parents had been waiting for him outside for hours, but in vain.
Nonetheless, nearly two months later, 11 GUC students were wanted by authorities after the university’s administration had filed complaints against the students.
On 25 May, Student Union (SU) president Hazem Abdel Khalek, SU Vice President Karim Nagib and student Alaa Al-Attar were detained for a couple of days pending investigations, amid increasing criticism by human rights’ advocates.
“The prosecution officer wanted to calm the situation from our side by asking us to apologize to the university president, also by scaring us with the charges we were facing. I refused, and my father was supportive of my response during investigations,” Naguib stated on 14 June.
According to Naguib, in a video posted by GUC Student Union, the accusations included obstructing learning, a sit-in inside the university, holding the university president hostage and insulting him, and assaulting security men.
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) condemned police reports filed by the university’s administration against the students. This was in addition to a crackdown regarding entrance to the university and attendance to exams for students who took part in the sit-in.
EOHR president Hafez Abu Seada demanded the Minister of Higher Education interfere in the process, as he considered the students’ sit-in their right to peaceful demonstration, in a statement released on 17 June.