Amnesty International released a statement on Monday condemning the death sentences handed to 21 defendants in the Port Said football violence case.
In February 2012, during a match between Al-Ahly and Al-Masry clubs, Al-Masry fans charged the football pitch which led to 74 deaths in Port Said stadium. More than 70 people were convicted and 21 of them were sentenced to death last January.
The verdict that was issued on 26 January sparked unrest in the Canal city that went on a civil disobedience later in February.
Amnesty International announced it has documents proving “excessive and unnecessary lethal force in the security forces’ response to the unrest – including the use of firearms when it was not strictly necessary to protect life”.
The trial for the remaining defendants was held on 9 March, the 21 death sentences were ratified, and 28 were acquitted while the rest received varying prison terms between 5 and 15 years.
“The trials which led to the death sentences seem to be more about scapegoating a few rather than providing answers about what happened on the day of the game and the role the authorities may have played,” the report read.
The report mentioned that the Grand Mufti, who has to review death sentences before implementation, had reportedly requested more time to review the case, but since the Mufti’s opinion is not legally binding the court had affirmed the sentences anyway.
“Amnesty International had written to the Grand Mufti to urge him not to approve the death sentences,” the report stated.
Amnesty also urged the Egyptian authorities to look into allegations of torture and ill-treatment some defendants said they faced during detention.
The situation in Port Said changed after the 9 March verdict. It was largely rejected by the people, as they believed some of those sentenced to death were innocent.
“Nobody has announced the end of the civil disobedience, but the roads are open and the factories are running,” said Mohamed Wafik, a member of the Revolutionary Socialists in Port Said.
Ultras Ahlawy, fans of Al-Ahly football club, also rejected the verdict as they believed security officials were to blame for the violence.