The judge who survived an assassination attempt Sunday morning was due to acquit 21 members of hardcore fan group Ultras White Knights, who themselves are accused of attempting to assassinate Zamalek club chairman Mortada Mansour last year.
Judge Moataz Khafaga, head of the Giza Criminal Court, was set to rule on the case of the 21 fans Sunday, before the case was called off following a car bomb exploding outside his Helwan house. However, the attack is seen as related to Khafaga’s work in cases that accuse Muslim Brotherhood members of terrorist activities.
Mortada Mansour, the outspoken lawyer and chairman of Zamalek sporting club, was reportedly intending to drop the case in which he alleges that his club’s Ultras fan group made an attempt on his life in August of last year. He claimed that members of the Ultras attempted to shoot him as he was leaving the club in the early hours of the morning. In what followed, numerous members of the UWK had their houses raided and were arrested.
Tarek El-Awady, a high-profile lawyer defending the 21 UWK members, confirmed to Daily News Egypt that “the judge was due in court this [Sunday] morning to rule on the case but the session was called off due to the incident”. The case has been rescheduled to 8 June at Giza Criminal Court.
The defence lawyers for the 21 have always maintained their innocence and allege that the claims were fabricated by Mansour, who has been engaged in a long running feud with the UWK since he took up the top post at the sporting club. The lawyers state that the 21 defendants have been physically abused, not only in custody, but also in the presence of Mansour.
Ahmed Mansour, Mortada’s son, corroborated the reports of Sunday’s planned acquittal, writing via Facebook Saturday night: “Tomorrow, God willing, my father and chairman of the board of the Zamalek club, in which I am honoured to be on the board of directors, will drop the opportunity to punish the young people who tried to kill him.” The statement suggested that his father’s change of heart comes after apologies from the accused and pleas from their families, so as not to ‘ruin their future’.
Lawyer El-Awady is, however, unconvinced by the declarations. “We’ve heard these rumours that they were going to be acquitted many times before, but nothing happened,” he said, and did not state whether apologies had been made.
One UWK source, who did not want to be named, rejected the idea that the defendants would have apologised to Mansour, telling Daily News Egypt: “We don’t negotiate with murderers.”
Mansour has been accused by the Ultras of “premeditated murder” in relation to the Air Defence Stadium disaster in February, in which 19 UWK members died during a stampede. The UWK believes that the deaths were due to poor organisation, for which the Zamalek club and Ministry of Interior are responsible.