Cairo Criminal Court ordered a reinvestigation into the deaths of at least 20 hardcore football fans, who were killed in February 2015 outside Cairo’s Air Defense Stadium.
The court referred the case to an investigations judge, who was also one of the three presiding judges on the case during the last investgation, asking that it be referred back to court in six months.
The 16 defendants are to remain in custody meanwhile, on accusations of murder and attempted murder, as well as vandalizing public property and attacking security officers.
Defense lawyer Mokhtar Mounir told Mada Masr that the re-referral indicates the prosecution did not do a good job of investigating the case in the first place. “The defense team demanded the interrogation of [head of the Zamalek Club] Mortada Mansour, who appeared in videos threatening Zamalek fans with a ‘surprise’ before the game. Mansour also deliberately bought 5,000 out of 10,000 tickets allocated for club members to attend the game, which was a direct reason for the over crowdedness that later caused the deadly stampede,” Mounir asserted.
Lawyers filed complaints against Sports Minister Khaled Abdel Aziz and former Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, as well as the head of the Football Federation Gamal Allam, for not launching an official investigation into the incident. They determined to resubmit their complaints to the investigating judge, who should have the right to release the defendants if he sees fit, Mounir explained.
“The court decision partially meets the demands of Zamalek club fans,” Mounir said, referring to a protest recently organized by the hardcore fan group to commemorate the first anniversary of the deaths this month, which included thousands of fans and families of the victims, who openly accused Mansour of masterminding the incident.
The Zamelek fan club, the Ultras White Knights, released a statement two days after the anniversary, demanding that Mansour be referred to court for murder. Other demands included forming an official committee to investigate the deaths — to include government officials, families of the victims and members of Ahly and Zamalek fan clubs — releasing the detained Zamalek fans and allowing ultras fans back into stadiums.
In a statement on state television at the time of the incident, late Prosecutor General Hesham Barakat said investigations placed the blame on the Muslim Brotherhood, claiming the group plotted the violence, aiming to destabilize the country. The group used its connections with elements of the Ultras White Knights, the prosecutor general claimed, providing them with money and fireworks to create chaos and instigate violence at the Zamalek vs. ENPPI premier league game. This was, he alleged, for the purpose of spreading terror, canceling the game and foiling the economic summit in Sharm el-Sheikh.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also recently invited 10 ultras members to participate in a committee to examine another football disaster that left 72 fans dead in Port Said in February 2012 , after they staged a large rally on the fourth anniversary of the fatal incident. The killings were preceded by clashes that broke out between Ultras Ahlway and Green Eagles (Al-Masry Club ultras) during a game between Al-Ahly and Al-Masry, known for their intense rivalry, but many fans blame security forces for stoking the conditions for the violence.
With longstanding rivalries with the police, ultras were at the vanguard of many street battles during the 2011 revolution and the following months of upheaval. Football games were often sites of mass chants insulting the police and military council, alongside the ultras’ signature flares.