By Heba Hesham
CAIRO: Hundreds of Ultras Ahlawy, Al-Ahly soccer team’s fan club, continued a sit-in for a second day in front of the People’s Assembly to demand swift trials for those involved in the Port Said football massacre and a suspension of sports activities in the country pending retribution for the martyrs.
On Feb. 1, a league match in the coastal city of Port Said left at least 71 people dead.
The Prosecutor General has charged 75 police officers with murder and negligence for assisting the attack on Al-Ahly fans. Some Port Said residents have claimed that hired outsiders were responsible for much of the violence.
Ultras Ahlawy members also demanded harsher sanctions against Port Said’s Al-Masry team denouncing the penalties issued by the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) on both teams on Friday.
The EFA decided to freeze the sports activities of Al-Masry for two seasons and to close the Port Said stadium for three seasons, and handed down several penalties on Al-Ahly and its audience.
“The sanctions on Al-Masry aren’t enough to retrieve the rights of the martyrs and aren’t a deterrent to other teams. And there is no justification for the EFA’s decision to impose penalties on our team,” said one of the participants in the sit-in, who refused to give his name.
Al-Ahly fans who participated in the sit-in spoke to Daily News Egypt on condition of anonymity or gave fake names saying that they are not authorized to speak to the media.
Saleh Farag, father of Mohab who was killed in Port Said, urged the court to begin the trial as soon as possible.
Farag added that Al-Masry should also be degraded from the premier league to the second division.
The Ultras issued a statement Sunday saying that the real perpetrators of the massacre should be exposed, including senior authorities involved in planning the attack. They said that accountability should not be restricted to Al-Masry fans.
“We oppose the intervention of corrupt bodies that masterminded the conspiracy in football as the decision to impose penalties was taken by the Prime Minister whose Cabinet as one of the reasons behind chaos in the country,” said the statement.
Meanwhile, Ahmed, one of the protesters who refused to give his real name, criticized Port Said’s MPs for requesting amnesty to those accused of killing Al-Ahly fans.
Outspoken Port Said MP El-Badry Farghaly, however, denied the claim.
“The only one with a say about the outcome of the case is the presiding judge. We respect the rights of the martyrs and will submit to any verdict,” he told DNE.
Farghaly called upon Al-Ahly fans to ease the tension against Port Said for the sake of achieving unity in the country.
“Counter revolutionary forces who were close associates of the former regime are trying to divide the country by inciting hatred against Port Said,” he said.
In Port Said, a 16-year-old boy was killed and over 60 were injured when security forces clashed with angry Al-Masry fans who protested against the decision to suspend their club.
According to Reuters, military police fired shots in the air to disperse hundreds of soccer fans protesting outside the Suez Canal Authority building in Port Said late Friday. Clashes continued since then.
Farghaly accused three Egyptian TV channels, that he did not identify, of exploiting the issue of martyrs’ rights to inflame public opinion against Port Said.
In the meantime, Port Said MPs have attempted to broker a peace between Al-Masry fans and their detractors.
“Despite what we do in the morning to calm the situation, these channels blow up everything at night when they spend hours on air to attack Port Said and no single official is stopping them,” Farghaly said.
The leftist MP condemned the fact that Port Said has been without leadership for more than 50 days, since the governor was sacked, and is facing economic isolation.
He denied that Port Said MPs threatened to hold a sit-in if penalties are imposed on Al-Masry, saying that “sit-ins are the resort of those who are defeated.”
“Port Said MPs will continue their efforts to calm down the situation and will boldly face attempts to divide the country,” he said.