A criminal court issued verdicts Sunday for seven defendants on re-trial in the ‘Port Said massacre’ case, which had a total of 73 defendants facing murder and violence charges in the infamous stadium clashes in 2012 between fans of two rival football clubs.
The court upheld a death penalty issued in absentia against one defendant, and a 10-year jail term for another, while it acquitted five people whom were previously sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison.
The Port Said trial has been ongoing since 2012, and included a total of 73 defendants. The court issued its very first sentence back in January 2013, ordering death penalties for 21 defendants, after the approval of the Grand Mufti. A few days before the following court hearing, a new Mufti was appointed.
Grand Mufti Shawqy Allam assumed the position on 4 March 2013, which left him with four days to make a decision. As a result, the authority advised the court to proceed without the Mufti’s opinion, for lack of time to look into the case, even though the law states otherwise.
However, Allam requested only 24 additional hours, after which his decision came in favour of the death sentences on 9 March 2013, despite previously stating his “inability to study the case properly”.
The trial has been going back and forth with the court reducing sentences. By June 2015, the number of death penalties was 11, while 40 defendants were given prison terms up to 15 years, and 21 people were acquitted.
Two of the acquitted young defendants said in TV interviews that they have been charged with murder, sabotage and theft. Ahmed El-Kahky, 22, told Dream TV in June that he spent 18 months in jail pending trial, despite being injured in the clashes.
Both of them were fans of Al-Masry club, like most defendants in the case, because in return, all victims – 72 dead, were Al-Ahly fans, leading to increased frustration between the two sides during the trial, which resulted in renewed clashes following court verdicts.
Al-Ahly fans and the families of the Al-Ahly victims erupted in cheer at news of the verdict, while in Port Said residents attempted to storm the prison in which many of the defendants are being held. Thousands in Port Said took to the street in protest. Clashes with the police left 42 dead on 26 January 2013, and hundreds injured.
This resulted in a parallel trial case involving 51 people in the ‘Port Said prison break.’ The defendants are accused of killing two police officers and 40 others, as well as injuring over 150 others between 26 to 28 January 2013.
This Port Said massacre trial has also raised controversy with the Ministry of Interior (MOI). Nine police officers were brought to trial, including the governorates’ Security Chief at the time, as they were accused of negligence and ‘conspiracy’ against the fans.
As the incidents were broadcast live, fans were fighting on the football ground amid no security presence, and reports that the stadium doors were locked, leaving the victims entrapped. Al-Ahly fans had also demanded the Supreme Council for Armed Forces (SCAF) to be held accountable, as it was in charge of the transitional period after 25 January 2011.
The social media accounts of fan groups such as ‘Ultras Ahlawy UA07’ and ‘Ultras Devil’ continue to be stormed with commemorations about young people who died in the clashes.