The prosecution detained five members of Ahly Football Club fan group, the Ultras Ahlawy, for 15 days pending investigations on Monday, just two days before the group plans to commemorate the anniversary of the Port Said stadium tragedy.
Wednesday marks five years since 72 ultras were killed in the canal city of Port Said in February 2012, during a football match between Ahly and Masry clubs.
The Ultras Ahlawy released a statement on Monday reiterating their intention to mark the anniversary at the club on Wednesday.
The detained ultras were accused of belonging to an illegal organization and inciting protests without notifying authorities.
“We have been subjected to direct threats over the last few days, warning us not to be present at Ahly Club on the anniversary, and told that whoever shows up will likely face the same fate as the Ahly martyrs. They began by arresting members from their homes,” the club’s statement read.
The five members were also accused of possessing fireworks and threatening the public peace, according to a statement by the fan group’s legal defense team.
The authorities won’t accept any commemoration of the memory of this fatal incident, or the martyrs, lawyer Mokhtar Mounir told Mada Masr, explaining that one of the men arrested from his home is a Zamalek Club fan not an Ahly Club fan, and was jailed from 2007-9 when the Ultras Ahlawy began.
Authorities confiscated items from the defendants’ homes, including t-shirts signed by a number of football players, scarves, stickers, fireworks and CDs of ultras songs.
In previous years, commemorative events have taken place at the stadium. “The ultras did not protest in the streets, nor did they clash with police or block roads,” Mounir said, adding that the defense team has asked Ahly Club officials to testify to this effect during the investigation.
“There are fears of possible confrontations with police as fans head to Ahly Club on Wednesday, which could lead to events similar to outside the Air Defense Stadium,” Mounir explained, referring to the deaths of Zamalek Club fans in front of the stadium in February 2015, when thousands of ultras were trapped in a huge iron cage installed by security to manage the entrance to the stadium. Police fired teargas into the cage, leading to a stampede that killed 22 fans.
Zamalek Club fan group, the Ultras White Knights (UWK), accused security forces of conspiring with the club’s head Mortada Mansour in orchestrating the tragedy. A number of UWK fans are standing trial for the deaths.
Ultras groups were banned by a Cairo court and labeled terrorist organizations in May 2015, after Zamalek Club President Mortada Mansour accused them of attempting to kill him and banned them from entering the club.
There is a long history of animosity between the Egyptian government and the hard-core ultras football fan groups in Egypt as a result of their involvement in the 2011 revolution. Authorities have exacerbated tensions by banning members from attending football games in recent years.