A major American academic association devoted to Middle East studies has urged President Hosni Mubarak to investigate "unlawful acts" committed by security forces against Egyptian university students.
In a letter to the Egyptian president, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) of North America said that it viewed with "grave concern" what it described as "numerous recent violations against students on several Egyptian university campuses."
Founded in 1966, MESA is considered a leading organization for Middle East and North Africa studies.
"As soon as the academic year began in September, university security forces and administrators on several campuses set about punishing and assaulting students engaged in lawful, peaceful activism," the letter noted. It went on to cite several examples of university students being beaten, arrested or otherwise intimated.
Last month, Fayoum University student Hisham Yahya was allegedly beaten by campus security personnel. Five students at Ain Shams University, meanwhile, were allegedly assaulted and tortured for supporting the National Association for Change reform movement, established by would-be independent presidential contender Mohamed ElBaradei.
Most recently, Somayya Ashraf, a student at Al-Azhar University's branch in the Nile Delta city of Zaqazeeq, was assaulted by a university security guard. Nine students who later staged a demonstration to protest the alleged violations against Ashraf are currently in custody awaiting trial.
MESA's letter to Mubarak noted that, on the eve of student union elections scheduled for Monday, "university security officers and administrators have been systematically repressing student activities… Students have been verbally abused, beaten, detained, arrested and suspended for expressing their views on issues of public concern."
The letter, sent by American Arabic literature scholar Roger Allen, concluded by asking the Egyptian government to "release arrested students and reinstate suspended students."
Dozens of university students affiliated with opposition groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood have been forcibly removed by university administrators in the run-up to next week's student elections.