Egypt to try 16 over football stadium deaths

2015-03-17 21:03

Cairo - Egypt's state prosecutor on Tuesday referred to trial 16 suspects accused of clashing with police that led to a deadly Cairo football stadium stampede, blaming the Islamist opposition for the violence.

At least 19 people died in the stampede after police fired tear gas at fans who tried to push their way into the stadium on 8 February.

The fixture between Cairo teams Zamalek and Enppi had been one of the first premier league games open to the public since supporters were banned from attending matches after more than 70 people died in stadium riots in the canal city of Port Said in 2012.

The prosecution accused the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, designated a "terrorist group" by the government in 2013, of financing hardcore Zamalek supporters called Ultras White Knights to "spread chaos and suspend [football] activity".

A prosecution statement said some suspects confessed during the investigation, adding that only 12 out of the 16 defendants are in custody and belong to the Brotherhood and the Ultras.

The suspects face several charges including murder, thuggery and vandalism.

The prosecution had said 22 people died in the violence, but the health ministry said they miscounted and the correct toll was 19.

Egypt's hard-core football fans have often clashed with police, including in political unrest that has seen two presidents toppled in four years.

The government has launched a brutal crackdown against supporters of president Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted by the army on 3 July 2013.

The crackdown has mainly targeted Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, and hundreds of mostly Islamist protesters have been killed in clashes.

The government suspended the premier football league again after the latest stadium deaths, but later said that the most watched league will return after a mourning period.