Debate flares in Egypt as court orders retrial of deadly soccer rioters

CAIRO. It is a complicated case, in which parties involved are soccer fans of two major Egyptian cities, Cairo and Port Said. Any court order that makes one of them happy would do so at the expense of the other.
Riot police are seen during a football match riot at a stadium in Port Said of Egypt on Feb. 1, 2012. . Xinhua  photo.
Riot police are seen during a football match riot at a stadium in Port Said of Egypt on Feb. 1, 2012. . Xinhua photo.

CAIRO. It is a complicated case, in which parties involved are soccer fans of two major Egyptian cities, Cairo and Port Said. Any court order that makes one of them happy would do so at the expense of the other.

An Egyptian court accepted the appeal on Thursday and ordered the retrial of 62 defendants from Port Said, 21 of whom had previously been sentenced to death over the killing of 74 people in a deadly football stadium riot in Egypt’s Suez Canal city of Port Said.The violence erupted on February 1, 2012, between fans of home side Al-Masry and Cairo’s Al-Ahly at the final whistle, making it one of the deadliest sport-related incidents in modern history.While the fans of Al-Ahly condemned the decision on retrial as “injustice,” supporters of Port Said hailed the order, saying it “gives a second chance” for their fellows to be acquitted.”People from Port Said are so happy, because they also want to find the real murderers and plotters of the bloody disaster,” said Amr Samy, spokesman of the major group of Al-Masry fans, known as “Ultras Masrawy” or “the Green Eagles.”Fans of both clubs should work together to find the real perpetrators, said Samy, adding that the previous conviction was to cool down public anger after the riot.

Adel Shehata, whose son was among the defendants who have been in custody for two years, said the court decision gave his family and local fans a great hope to prove that Port Said was innocent.As many as 73 people, including nine security officials, were arrested after the incident. In March 2013, the criminal court in Port Said reaffirmed death penalties for 21 of them and sentenced five to life imprisonment. It has acquitted 28 of them, including seven senior officials.On the other hand, the court’s retrial order disappointed Al-Ahly club fans, known as “Ultras Ahlawy.” A group of family members of the victims gathered outside Egypt’s Court of Cassation, chanting slogans against the court’s ruling.”Where is justice?” a victim’s father said with tearful eyes. He refused to identify himself.”We’re not going to get our rights in this country anymore,” said the 50-year-old man, accusing the judiciary of being unfair.”Are all the killers innocent now?” he exclaimed, arguing that “the criminals” had been recorded in photos and videos so the case did not lack evidence.

 

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