Ultras White Knights (UWK), Al-Zamalek SC’s fans, denounced Saturday the testimony of Zamalek assistant manager Ismail Youssef in the case publicly known as the “Air Defence Stadium” clashes, in which 22 football fans were killed in February 2015.
“Youssef already stated the crowds [present during the incident] were thugs and not football fans, as he claimed they destroyed cars parked on the street and pushed each other [towards the stadium’s gate],” UWK said in a statement Saturday.
The group criticised Youssef’s testimony, which they said would clear Al-Zamalek SC president Mortada Mansour of charges involving him in the clashes or having causing them. UWK had previously accused Mansour of “setting a trap for football fans” by announcing a “surprise” shortly before the game and therefore misleading fans into thinking that there would be tickets sold on the door.
The statement accused Youssef of covering up for the “real culprits”.
“Even the very worst of history will remember you with scorn and contempt,” UWK said, addressing Youssef. “You have supported the real killer at the expense of the fans and you will do it again. You will submit yourself to him but as fans of that club, we will not allow further corruption.”
A trial of 16 defendants was launched in the aftermath of the clashes. The defendants include Sayed “Moshagheb”, a prominent UWK member, detained and accused of the attempted murder of Mortada Mansour.
A year later, the court decided to restart the trial and launch new investigations into the case. The Cairo Criminal Court determined the previously collected evidence as inaccurate and insufficient.
The UWK’s recent statement condemns prosecution authorities in the case for calling Youssef in for further questioning and expresses concerns over the fairness of the re-trial.
The defendants stand accused of initiating a riot that led to the deaths of 20 Al-Zamalek football fans. The trial will be suspended until the new investigations are concluded; the court assigned a new judge and gave him a maximum period of six months to complete the investigations.
The clashes took place on 8 February 2015, ahead of a match scheduled between Al-Zamalek and ENPPI. Nearly 20 fans died as a result of suffocation as security forces prevented them entrance to the stadium.
The Ministry of Interior said violence occurred after Al-Zamalek supporters, known as Ultras White Knights, attempted to enter the stadium without buying tickets and also suggested that Muslim Brotherhood members tried to instigate the stampede. The fans denied both accusations and accused ministry officials of being responsible for firing teargas into the crowd, which was tightly packed in a narrow metal cage surrounded by barbed wire at the stadium entrance.