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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Massive and violent clashes erupted in Egypt after announcing the verdict in the Port Said football case

Massive protests and clashes in Cairo after the announcing of
the Port Said case verdict

Amid the ongoing police protests and the demonstrations, clashes and acts of civil disobedience in several Egyptian cities including the capital Cairo and the Canal City Port Said Egypt’s Court has announced the verdict in the Port Said football massacre case on Saturday, 9 March 2013.

We would remind here that the tragedy happened in Egyptian city Port Said on 1 February 2012 when 74 people have been killed and hundreds injured during the soccer match between Cairo’s Al Ahly club and the local team. The tragedy in Port Said sparked the clashes in Egypt one year ago with the demands of justice and retribution. The information was circulating that Egypt’s Security Forces could be also involved as they have been accused of failing to prevent the bloodshed, stop the clashes and protect the people.

Several policemen including some high ranking officials have faced the trial.

The first stage of the trial finished on 26 January 2013 with the Court announcing the death sentence for 21 defendants accused of being involved in the stadium massacre. All of them are Port Said residents. This verdict provoked anger among the relatives of the defendants and the residents of the city and sparked the massive protests which took the lives of nearly 70 people due to the excessive use of power by CSF while dealing with the protesters.

Port Said residents reaction on the court verdict
Egypt’s Canal City Port Said witnesses the ongoing protests and civil disobedience during the weeks as the demands of the protesters aren’t met yet.

The second stage of the trial was held on 9 March 2013, on Saturday, in New Cairo district. The escalation of violence has been expected after the verdicts would be announced.

Hundreds of people have gathered on Saturday in front of the Court building in Cairo and also in Port Said waiting for the announcement of the trial verdict. Ultras Al Ahlawy, the hardcore football fans group based in Cairo, was also present.

The judge has announced the verdict and the summary of the Port Said trial is the following:
-          21 death sentences issued in the first stage of the trial have been confirmed;
-          5 defendants received the life sentences;
-          10 accused have received the prison sentences ranging from 10to 15 years;
-          6 defendants got 10 years in prison;
-          2 defendants received 5 years prison term;
-          1 defendant has got 1 year in prison;
-          28 defendants have been acquitted, among them 7 police officers.

There are two police officers among those accused for 15 years in prison: Essam Samak, former Port Said Security Director, and Mohamed Saad, former Head of Port Said water bodies security department.

Massive protests in Egypt
Among those acquitted are also police officials including former Head of Port Said police investigation department Mostafa Razaz, former Head of CSF in the Suez Canal area Abdel-Aziz Sami, former Head of Port Said national security directorate Bahy Al-Din Zaghloul and also four aides of the senior police officers.

This verdict has provoked anger among many Egyptians, the residents of Port Said and the Ultras as well. Ultras have been disappointed with the acquittals of several defendants, especially policemen, and demanded the retrial and the issuing of the verdicts for them. Port Said residents in their turn are angry as they see the current situation and the verdicts as totally politicized when those accused were made as scapegoats.

But despite the expectations and the disappointment with the verdict in Port Said the situation in the city remained relatively calm during the whole day with the several protests which have been mainly peaceful. There have been reportedly some attempts to halt the work of the Suez Canal by some residents, but this act has been stopped by the army patrolling the area.

Cairo in the contrary faced massive protests and clashes near the Court building and also in the downtown area, close to Tahrir Square. The clashes started after some angry Ultras started to chant against the verdicts and have been throwing the stones and Molotov cocktails. Police Club located in the downtown Cairo was set ablaze; the building of Egypt’s Football Association has been set on fire as well by the angry protesters and some Ultras. The damage caused by the fire was really terrible according to the spokesperson of EFA, as numerous papers documented the history of Egyptian Football and also some sport trophies have been destroyed or stolen.

The Head of FIFA in his turn addressed to Egyptian football fans urging them to avoid the violence and remain peaceful as any acts of violence are completely against the ideology of sport and cannot be the solution to the problems.

The clashes continue in Egypt’s capital and the situation remains tense. The roads leading to the building of Ministry of Interior are reportedly blocked by the CSF and army. Huge police forces are deployed in the area, as the situation escalates.

State’s Ministry of Health reported recently about three deaths in Cairo, including one eight-year old boy. There are also hundreds of injured, most of them suffering from the tear gas inhalation and the bird shots. There have been also some reports about shooting live ammunition in the air in some districts in Cairo.

Egypt’s Ultras in their turn declared in their statement on their official Facebook page that this is only the beginning and they will not stop their fight until their demands won’t be met.
They also call, along with other protesters, for the dismissal of Egypt’s Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim and the current Prosecutor General.

Thus the situation in the country remains extremely tense as several governorates take part in the protests and acts of civil disobedience. The people protests against the current political, social and economical situation in the country, against the so called “Brotherhoodisation” and against Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsy calling him to step down. Retribution for the victims of the recent violence, justice, changing of the policies of the Ministry of Interior and also the formation of the independent committees to investigate the recent cases of violence and the excessive use of force against the protesters are also among the demands of the demonstrators.

Meanwhile Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy remains silent despite the escalating of the situation and the deepening crisis in the country. Presidential official spokesperson announced on Saturday that President will not comment on the Port Said trial verdicts and the following protests as the decisions of the court should respected and there should be only using of the legal measures to protests those decisions. According to the Court all the verdicts could be appealed.