News24

Egypt soccer deaths - 75 to stand trial

2012-03-15 20:11

Cairo - Prosecutors ordered 75 people to stand trial for causing Egypt's worst soccer stadium disaster, including the head of security in Port Said city where lax policing was blamed for a stampede that killed 74 fans.

"The accused were sent to a criminal court on charges of committing the crime of intentional and premeditated murder," the general prosecutor's office said in a statement on Thursday.

The crush followed a pitch invasion when Port Said-based al-Masry beat Cairo's Al Ahli, the most successful club in Africa, on February 2.

Steel doors at the stadium were bolted shut, trapping fans trying to escape from the stands and dozens were crushed to death, witnesses said.

Many fans blamed the government for a failure to send enough police to the stadium given the tense build-up to the match, and many believe the violence was sparked by hired thugs. At least 1 000 people were injured.

Egyptian soccer fans known as "Ultras" took a front-line role in public protests that led to the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, and in subsequent protests against the army generals who took power when Mubarak fell.

Some ordinary Egyptians, media commentators and analysts said the Port Said violence was allowed to happen by the authorities as revenge against the Ultras.

A parliamentary enquiry blamed both fans and poor policing, and the Port Said head of security, Essam Samak, was fired.

State television said nine of the 75 people to stand trial were police officers. Two were minors who would be tried in a juvenile court.

The Port Said deaths sparked days of clashes between young men and riot police near the Interior Ministry in Cairo in which 16 more people were killed.

Hundreds of Ahli supporters gathered at the club's Cairo ground on Thursday to protest at what they regarded as official foot-dragging over the disaster. Some wore black T-shirts reading "We wont forget the 74".