On the morning of Tuesday, May 19, the students of Ain Shams University’s Faculty of Engineering saw a man entering the exam hall with a staff member and ordering their fellow student Islam Salah Eddin Attito to go to the Student Affairs Office after he finished.
The man waited for Attito at the door and then took him to an unknown place.
The next day, the Interior Ministry said in a statement that the student was killed in an exchange of fire during a raid on a terrorist cell hidden in a mountainous area of New Cairo, and that he was the main suspect in the murder of police officer Wael Tahoun.
The faculty’s student union disbanded after this statement, while the administration denied the student was taken by police, as was confirmed by exam hall observers and surveillance cameras. Additionally, Dr. Mohamed Hassan Suleiman, a faculty member, presented Attito’s exam paper to the prosecutors to prove that he had taken the exam and had not been hiding in some cell in a mountainous area.
Irrespective of the outcome of the investigation, there are certain remarks about this terrifying story:
1 – The word “liquidation” was widely used by the media and the Interior Ministry, as if suspects should be liquidated and not arrested and given a fair trial. Also, the repeated story in the statements of the Interior Ministry about an exchange of fire so as to justify liquidation cannot be trusted without material evidence, such as a clear and explicit video of it in the presence of prosecutors during the raids.
2 – The Interior Ministry issues statements and then takes them back and revises them, as was the case in Shaima al-Sabbagh and Karim Hamdy's deaths. This shakes the public opinion's confidence and makes people doubt the credibility of those statements, even if some of them were true.
3 – The conflict between students and the Interior Ministry has been going on for a long time and collective punishment practices have become common, the last of which was the storming of Al-Azhar University dormitories in Nasr City a few days ago where all expatriate students were arrested. Consequently, those students could not attend their final exams and would therefore not graduate, all because they were arrested on suspicion and not because of thorough investigations.
We are all against terrorism and we agree that those who carry weapons should be faced with weapons. But demonizing everybody and confusing innocents with criminals only breeds more violence.
Would we review what happened and re-evaluate the way we handle things?
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm