By Mai Shams El-Din
CAIRO: Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud referred Thursday 75 defendants, including nine policemen, to court for their alleged involvement in the Port Said football massacre.
“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.
Ahly Ultras marched on the same day to Mahmoud’s office demanding justice for the at least 71 who were killed on that tragic day.
The defendants include nine police officers in Port Said, three officials in Al-Masry Club and two defendants referred to a juvenile court, reported the official Middle East News Agency (MENA).
An attack against supporters of Al-Ahly Sports Club by Al-Masry fans after a match on Feb. 1 also left scores injured and led to mass protests where a crackdown by security forces resulted in more fatalities.
Steel doors at the stadium were bolted shut, trapping fans trying to escape from the stands and dozens were crushed to death, witnesses said.
Parliament has blamed the police for negligence and even complicity in what became known as the Port Said football massacre.
On Thursday, the prosecution ordered the detainment of General Essam Samak, former head of Port Said Security Directorate, three of his aides, a police colonel who had the stadium’s keys and another top officer. They will be held for four days in the Police Academy, where the trial of ousted president Hosni Mubarak is taking place.
The civilian defendants were charged with premeditated murder while the accused police officers are charged with aiding the attackers, allegedly knowing their intentions to attack the football fans, MENA quoted prosecution’s spokesman Justice Adel El-Saied as saying.
El- Saied added that the accused police officers enabled the rest of the defendants to attack Al-Ahly fans and were reluctant to protect the victims or stop the attacks while the stadium’s electricity engineer was ordered to switch off the stadium’s lights to help the assailants.
On Thursday, thousands of Al-Ahly football fans, Ultras Ahlawy, marched from the club’s headquarters in Zamalek to the Prosecutor General’s office downtown, demanding justice for the martyrs and accusing the police and the ruling military council of conspiring to kill the fans.
Al-Ahly fans and martyrs’ families remain dissatisfied by the prosecutor’s decision.
“This is a good move, I will not believe it until I see those police officers in the dock,” mother of martyr Mohamed Hassan Fahmy told Daily News Egypt.
“This is done to silence us and calm us down and then all of the defendants will be acquitted,” mother of martyr Karim Ahmed Abdullah said, referencing the trials of police officers accused of killing protesters during Jan. 25 uprising, several of whom have been acquitted.
“We do not care about arresting those police officers, we want to know the ones higher than them; we want to execute the military council for this,” she said, adding that the football fans were specifically targeted for their participation throughout the revolution.
Ultras member Mohamed Adel told DNE that the decision was issued after pressure and mass protests from football fans demanding that justice be served.
“We will not stop protesting until those arrested are executed for their conspiracy against us, a big sit-in will be our last resort to pressure authorities,” he said, adding that only ousting the military council and executing its members will satisfy them.
The protesting football fans confirmed to DNE that three of them were summoned by the prosecution on charges of using fireworks during the infamous football game, echoing media reports.
“We [challenge] them to arrest any of us. We will not let them do that. We are the victims and should not be questioned,” Adel added.
The news could not be confirmed by press time.
Member of Parliament from Port Said Akram El-Shaeir told DNE Thursday that the information released by the prosecution matched the results of the fact-finding committee formed by the parliament.
“We want the rule of law,” said El-Shaeir, who is also member of the Freedom and Justice Party. “Those arrested are still defendants, innocent until proven guilty,” he added, asserting that parliament respects the Egyptian judiciary and trusts its integrity.
“We trust that the judiciary will bring justice in this case,” he said.
Sports activities, especially the football league, have been halted since February. Members of Ultras groups, mainly of the Ahly and Zamalek clubs, have said they would storm stadiums if games were held before justice was served. The league was cancelled but friendly tournaments could be organized.
A man hold a poster of “martyr Ahmed Osama Salah Eddin” killed in Port Said on Feb. 1 during the march on Thursday. (Daily News Egypt Photo/Hassan Ibrahim)