The Cairo Criminal Court resumed on Wednesday the ‘Air Defence Stadium’ trial in a session held at Tora Police Institute.
The case involves 16 defendants who stand accused of rioting in the events, which saw the deaths of 22 football fans of Al-Zamalek SC last February. Several officers testified against the defendants at court.
“We all know the real perpetrators, but unfortunately our hands are tied,” Samer Attia, the uncle of one of the defendants, told Daily News Egypt outside the court on Wednesday.
Mostafa Mahmoud, a 23-year-old student at the Faculty of Commerce at Cairo University, was taken from his house at dawn, the day after the incidents.
“He went to the match with a friend, joining another group of fans on the way, after rumours spread that tickets would be available at the door. His friend had a ticket but Mahmoud could not get in,” Attia stated.
He continued, saying Mahmoud had returned home, watched the match with his family, reported the clashes he had witnessed, and finally went to sleep.
“Next thing we knew he was taken by police on the pretext of asking him a few questions, [and he is] now facing charges of responsibility in the violent clashes,” Attia said.
According to defence lawyer Mohamed Fathi, “the victims are on trial”. Fathi told Daily News Egypt shortly before the session that the case documents are “ridiculous” and “far from the truth”.
Meanwhile, Attia claims his nephew was arrested because one of the fans from the neighbourhood was tortured by the police to confess. “So he basically gave them the names of anyone he knew who was likely to go to the stadium,” he said.
Fathi confirmed that the defendants were tortured in Abul Nomros and Nasr City police stations and another security camp. There are two minor defendants in the case, whom Fathi is defending.
One of them, Ali Shaaban, was the only one arrested at a security checkpoint on his way home from the match.
“Official police reports established the same conditions of arrests for most suspects, but they had all either been taken from home, or from the surrounding area of the stadium,” Fathi said.
He explained that there are over 20 eyewitnesses from security forces testifying against the defendants. “On the other hand, we requested the testimonies of those responsible for the organisation of the game. This stadium hosted many matches with public presence and no such thing happened before,” Fathi said.
He further stated that the lawsuit says three defendants, two of them on the run, belong to the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Because the Brotherhood has become responsible for everything bad on earth, these people organised the crime, through Ultras, and distributed money to other participants to sabotage the match,” he said.
The case also includes Sayed ‘Moshagheb’ a prominent Ultras White Knights (UWK) member detained and accused of the attempted murder of President of the Al-Zamalek club, Mortada Mansour.
The trial began in April after the General Prosecution referred 16 defendants from ‘Ultras fans and Muslim Brotherhood members’ to trial.
The incident took place before the match as fans were attempting to enter the Air Defence Stadium, before the Al-Zamalek SC and ENPPI premier league football match. The deaths occurred as security forces violently dispersed crowding fans at the entrance to the stadium.
In March, Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat claimed that Muslim Brotherhood members provided the UWK with money and explosive materials to commit violence and riots, which led to the killings, in addition to attacking and injuring police forces and burning a police car. The prosecution had also previously ordered the arrest of a number of UWK leaders, accusing them of inciting the stadium’s storming.
Although the direct cause of deaths were strongly attributed to the security’s violent dispersal of the crowding fans, and the presence of a caged entrance to the stadium, no security officials are facing charges.
The UWK described what happened as “a deliberate massacre, premeditated murder… a planned conspiracy”. They blamed Al-Zamalek’s head Mortada Mansour, former interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim and his assistants, the club’s board members, head of the Egyptian Football League, prominent football personnel Ahmed Shouber, and the current Minister of Sports.
Mortada and the UWK have long had a hostile relationship, and Mansour had previously accused the group of trying to assassinate him, and 12 fans were referred to criminal court on this charge.
Additional reporting by Mahmoud Mostafa.