By Paul Nicholson
February 20 – Egypt’s top court in Cairo has this morning (Monday) upheld death sentences for 10 men for their part in the violence that left 74 football fans dead in the Port Said stadium disaster in February 2012.
The match between Port Said’s Al-Masry and Cairo’s Al-Ahly – long-time rivals – was politically charged from the start. Ultras fan groups had provided much of the muscle in the street protests that lead to the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Since then relations with security forces have been tense.
The ruling by the Court of Cassation, which is final, excluded an eleventh defendant who remains at large after his death penalty was also confirmed in June 2015 by another court.
The court also upheld sentences of life imprisonment for 10 others and five years for 12 more, including Port Said’s security chief at the time.
Reports from the match said that Al-Ahly fans unfurled a banner insulting Al-Masry fans. Al-Masry fans, who won the match 3-1, invaded the pitch and attacked the Al-Ahly fans.
There was then panic as fans tried to flee the stadium only finding that the local security forces had locked the gates making escape impossible and effectively creating a killing zone.
Many of the dead were crushed by fans trying to escape the Port Said stadium, others fell or were thrown from terraces, witnesses said at the time.
Ultras fan groups were outlawed in May 2015 and since the 2012 massacre Egyptian was at first suspended for a season with matches then gradually re-introduced but played behind closed doors.
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