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Friday, 12 June 2009 23:02

Dozens of Students Detained In Egypt

By Anna Malpas

MOSCOW, June 1 (The Moscow Times) - Several dozen Russian students have been detained in Egypt in document checks just days before U.S. President Barack Obama pays a visit to Cairo.

Cairo police rounded up the students at Al-Azkhar University, a world center of Islamic studies, last week during checks on foreign students studying in the country, Foreign Ministry spokesman Igor Lyakin-Frolov said.

"The action was taken by the local police. They supposedly did it to check the legitimacy of foreigners staying on Egyptian soil," Lyakin-Frolov said by telephone Friday.

It was not immediately clear if the detentions were related to Obama's visit. The U.S. president is to give a speech at Cairo University, a secular institution, on Thursday.

Lyakin-Frolov said more than 30 Russians were detained but added that he did not know the exact number and did not know whether they had the necessary documents to study in Egypt.

A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Cairo told Interfax that at least 35 students from the North Caucasus were detained "in a brutal way" during the roundup Tuesday night.

One of the detainees, Khamid Alkhazurov, was quoted by state-run Channel One television as saying conditions in detention were unbearable. "We were herded into a room measuring five square meters. Fifty people, it's unbearable," he said. "It's hot here, and there are no facilities, and there are sick people among us. They are categorically refusing to carry out our demands."

The Russian Embassy in Cairo sent a note to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry demanding information on the reason for the detentions, where the students are being held and permission for embassy officials to meet the detainees, Lyakin-Frolov said.

Egyptian police officials could not be immediately reached for comment Sunday.

A senior Muslim cleric said the students had failed to properly document their stay in Egypt.

"The arrested citizens were living there in contravention of the visa regime," said Damir Gizatullin, first deputy chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia. "They did not apply officially, they did not register."

Gizatullin said he had obtained this information from the council's representative in Egypt, Rubin Munirov.

"We are following the situation. I think that humanitarian norms should be observed," Gizatullin said.

He said none of the detained students had been sent by his council to study in Egypt. He could not immediately say how many council-sponsored students were studying there now.

Yusup Abakharov, an official at the Russian Embassy in Cairo, said Sunday that Egyptian authorities had promised to make a decision on the release of the students by Tuesday, Interfax reported.

Ekho Moskvy radio said 15 students had been released by Sunday.

The Foreign Ministry said police also detained students from other countries, including France, Britain, Denmark, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. A report on the Ingushetia.org web site said a total of 198 Russian students were picked up in Cairo, Alexandria and Mansoura. (END/2009)

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