Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1243, (23 - 29 April 2015)
Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Issue 1243, (23 - 29 April 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Result of a bloodbath

Eleven people have been sentenced to death over the 2012 Port Said football massacre, reports Ahmed Morsy

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Al-Ahram Weekly

 The Port Said Criminal Court on Sunday referred the case of 11 defendants accused of murder to the Grand Mufti for his approval that death sentences be passed against them. The eleven were convicted of murder during the Port Said Stadium football massacre that left 74 killed and dozens injured in February 2012.

Referral to the Grand Mufti is a routine procedure prior to ratifying a death sentence, according to Egyptian law. Though the religious opinion of the mufti is non-binding, it is customary for the court to adopt it.

The defendants are accused of several crimes, including premeditated murder and possession of explosives and weapons. The killings were a result of the ensuing violence — spectators were stabbed, beaten, crushed in a stampede and deliberately thrown off the upper tier of the stadium.

The case, a retrial, included 73 defendants accused of killing 74 mostly supporters of Cairo club Ahly following a domestic league match between Ahly and Port Said’s football club Masri. The trial also included nine police officials but none were among the 11 who received the death sentence. 

The court postponed the verdict over the remaining defendants until 30 May. It also issued a media gag over the trial.

Security was tight throughout the Port Said governorate in anticipation of protests or acts of violence by Masri fans after the verdict. Hundreds of Masri hardcore fans, called Green Evils, marched on the streets of the coastal city on Monday denouncing Sunday’s court verdict. It was only after a compromise was reached between security forces and members of the Green Evils that the demonstration was peacefully dispersed.

The demands of the protesters were that those convicted should be kept in Ismailia prison and not to be transferred to a Cairo prison, and to assign a new lawyer to them to be responsible for the appeals procedures.

“The court verdict issued on Sunday from Port Said Criminal Court is a victory for justice and truth, especially after many said that the case had been manipulated. However, the court’s verdict proved otherwise,” Mohamed Rashwan, lawyer of Ahly fans, said following the verdict.

“The ruling was in favour of the families of Ahly’s martyrs, for their patience and commitment to the path of justice. They didn’t adopt the path of demonstrations and sit-ins to achieve retribution,” Rashwan said.

It was not the first trial surrounding the massacre. The first sentence was delivered in January 2013, when 21 people were sentenced to death. Ultras Ahlawy, the hardcore football fans of Ahly club, welcomed the initial sentences but were angered that none of the nine police officers tried in the case were convicted. That led to protests which resulted in 40 killed in Port Said during violent clashes between Port Said fans and police.

The second verdict came in March 2013. Death sentences were ratified, with five receiving life sentences, 10 handed 15-year sentences, two receiving five years and one man receiving a year-long sentence. Twenty-eight defendants were acquitted, including seven former high-ranking police officers.

A retrial was ordered in February 2014 after the Court of Cassation accepted appeals by the prosecution and defendants.

Ahly and Masri supporters share a deep-rooted rivalry which has often surfaced in the form of minor clashes, but never on the scale of Port Said, the deadliest violence in Egypt’s football history.

Although the judge in the retrial cut the number of Masri supporters facing the death penalty, the verdict sparked renewed anger in Port Said where many saw the fans as scapegoats in the massacre. Many believe an effort by the military and security forces to punish Ahly supporters for their role in the 2011 popular revolt that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak, with subsequent mass protests against police brutality and military rule, got out of hand.

Throughout 2011, the Ultras’ out-of-stadium appearances were a hallmark, featuring in the frequent confrontations with security forces after taking part in protests, whether they were in Tahrir Square or other liberation sites. After the revolution, they began to belt out political chants insulting the police. They recently chanted obscenities at the military police.

The Port Said tragedy was the major reason for league matches being played behind closed doors for the past three years to pre-empt violence.

In the first league game to let spectators in, on 8 February this year, 20 people were killed – mostly supporters of Cairo club Zamalek – following a stampede outside Cairo’s Air Defence Stadium that was hosting a league match between ENPPI and Zamalek.

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