The trial of 61 men over the
death of 74 football fans in Egypt's worst stadium disaster was
adjourned on Tuesday after a rowdy first session that was
suspended briefly when dozens of defendants hurled abuse at the
Judge Abdel Magid Mahmoud walked out as the defendants
jumped on benches in the courtroom's steel cage and waved their
fists at the bench, denying any role in the deaths and demanding
that the true culprits be punished.
"Either we get justice for them or we die ourselves!" the
The judge returned when calm was restored and set May 5 for
the next session to give the court time to call witnesses,
prepare documents requested by lawyers and summon more of the
accused to stand trial.
Many of those killed on the night of February 1 were crushed
when panicked fans tried to escape from the stadium after a
post-match pitch invasion by supporters of local side Al-Masry.
Others fell or were thrown from terraces, witnesses said.
It was the country's deadliest incident since protests
toppled long-serving President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011
and it deepened frustration that a police force weakened by last
year's uprising seemed unable to protect the population.
Fans of the visiting team, Al Ahly, accused the Interior
Ministry of deliberately causing the disaster in revenge for
their role in toppling Mubarak and their continued hostility to
an unreformed police force.
The court ordered that Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim and
the heads of al-Masry club, the Egyptian Football Association
and the Supreme Sports Council be named as concerned parties in
the case, meaning they will not be exposed to criminal charges
but may be told to pay compensation if found responsible for
acts of their subordinates, state news agency MENA reported.
A parliamentary inquiry blamed fans and shoddy policing for
the deaths and the head of state security in Port Said was fired
along with the board of the football association.
"The accused used different types of sharp weapons,
explosives and stones and waited for the fans in Port Said
stadium to arrive to watch the match between Egypt's Ahly vs
Port Said clubs," the general prosecutor told the court.
The 61 were charged with premeditated killing and 12 others,
including nine police officers and three Masry club officials,
with helping cause the disaster.
The interior ministry has refused to provide security at
football matches since the disaster, forcing the cancellation of
the rest of the top-flight league season.
Hundreds of protesters outside the court building demanded
justice for the victims. Some fans wore black shirts imprinted
with the words: "When I forego the rights of the martyrs, I will
surely be dead".
"We only want the justice of God," said Ahmed Khater, 55,
whose son died in the stadium.
Many of the protesters outside the court were Ahly fans who
see the trial as a last chance to reassert their dignity.
likened the case to the ongoing trials of Mubarak and other
state officials blamed for the deaths of more than 800 people in
last year's uprising.
"We will not allow any prolonging of the process. If the
martyrs' rights aren't secured by law, we will achieve it by
other means," said student Mahmoud Adel.
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