Seventy-five to stand trial in Egypt over soccer deaths

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 15, 2012 11:35 AM
Seventy-five to stand trial in Egypt over soccer deaths

CAIRO (Reuters) - Prosecutors ordered 75 people to stand trial for causing Egypt's worst soccer stadium disaster, including the head of security in Port Said city where lax policing was blamed for a stampede that killed at least 74 fans.

"The accused were sent to a criminal court on charges of committing the crime of intentional and premeditated murder," the general prosecutor's office said in a statement on Thursday.

The crush followed a pitch invasion when Port Said-based al-Masry beat Cairo's Al Ahli, the most successful club in Africa.

Steel doors at the stadium were bolted shut, trapping fans trying to escape from the stands and dozens were crushed to death, witnesses said.

Many fans blamed the government for a failure to send enough police to the stadium given the tense build-up to the match, and many believe the violence was sparked by hired thugs. At least 1,000 people were injured.

Thousands of Ahli supporters met at the club's ground on Thursday and marched through Cairo to protest what they regarded as official foot-dragging over the disaster. Some wore black t-shirts reading "We won't forget the 74."

Mothers of fans who died in Port Said walked at the front of the crowd, weeping as they held portraits of their sons. Young men shouted "It's all fabricated! This is how they do it!"

Banging drums and waving Ahli flags bearing the club's black eagle mascot, they marched to Cairo's high court where they posted a banner over its door that read "Can't stop Ultras" -- a name given to Egyptian soccer fans.

"I am here because my world has collapsed and my heart died with the death of my son, my only son. I have no one but him and I have to secure his rights," said Samah, one of the protesters who was carrying a big picture of her son Karim Ahmed.

"We want the top people... those who are continuing to corrupt Egypt. We have not got them yet," she said.

Ultras took a front-line role in public protests that led to the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, and in subsequent protests against the army generals who took power when Mubarak fell.

Some ordinary Egyptians, media commentators and analysts said the Port Said violence was allowed to happen by the authorities as revenge against the Ultras.

A parliamentary enquiry blamed both fans and poor policing, and the Port Said head of security, Essam Samak, was fired.

State television said nine of the 75 people to stand trial were police officers. Two were minors who would be tried in a juvenile court.

The Port Said deaths sparked days of clashes between young men and riot police near the Interior Ministry in Cairo in which 16 more people were killed.

(Additional reporting by Ashraf Fahim, Omar Fahmy; Writing by Yasmine Saleh; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer and Karolina Tagaris)