Egypt charges 75, in­clud­ing cops, in con­nec­tion with fa­tal soc­cer riot

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY HAMZA HEN­DAWI

CAIRO | Egypt’s top pros­e­cu­tor on Thurs­day charged 75 peo­ple in con­nec­tion with a deadly soc­cer riot last month in which au­thor­i­ties said fans were thrown to their death off the sta­dium walls and oth­ers killed by ex­plo­sives as they tried to flee.

Scores of fans face mur­der charges, and nine po­lice of­fi­cers were ac­cused of com­plic­ity in mur­der in the Feb. 1 riot that left at least 74 peo­ple dead. It was the world’s worst soc­cer-re­lated dis­as­ter in 15 years.

The riot be­gan in the Mediter­ranean city of Port Said min­utes af­ter the final whis­tle in a league game be­tween Cairo club al-ahly and al-masry of Port Said.

The home team won 3-1, but its fans set upon the ri­val sup­port­ers in a killing frenzy that wit­nesses said lasted 30 min­utes. Many wit­nesses claimed that po­lice­men at the venue did noth­ing to stop the blood­shed.

The riot shocked soc­cer-crazy Egypt, deep­en­ing the sense of un­cer­tainty felt by many as their na­tion con­tin­ues to be roiled by un­rest a year af­ter the ouster of long­time au­thor­i­tar­ian leader Hosni Mubarak.

That se­nior po­lice of­fi­cers were charged in con­nec­tion with the tragedy would lend cre­dence to per­sis­tent claims that the na­tion’s much-hated po­lice were de­lib­er­ately turn­ing a blind eye to the wave of vi­o­lent crime grip­ping Egypt over the past year.

Po­lice have yet to fully re­take the streets af­ter they melted away in yet­not-fully-ex­plained cir­cum­stances on the fourth day of the 18-day pop­u­lar up­ris­ing that top­pled Mr. Mubarak.

An end to po­lice bru­tal­ity was among the main root causes of the up­ris­ing, and many rights ac­tivists be­lieve the po­lice’s ap­par­ent re­luc­tance to re­store se­cu­rity is pay­back for their hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat in the face of mil­lions of un­armed pro­test­ers.

A state­ment is­sued by the of­fice of the na­tion’s pros­e­cu­tor gen­eral said nine po­lice of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing six ma­jor gen­er­als and a colonel, par­tic­i­pated in the Port Said riot by way of “as­sis­tance” to al-masry fans.

They said the of­fi­cers, along with sev­eral al-masry of­fi­cials, knew in ad­vance that the home fans planned to at­tack al-ahly sup­port­ers.

They, said the state­ment, al­lowed alMasry fans to ex­ceed by 3,000 the max­i­mum num­ber au­tho­rized to at­tend the game and did not search any of them for weapons be­fore they were al­lowed in­side the ground. Many of the charged fans were criminals known to the lo­cal po­lice, it said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Thou­sands of Egyp­tian ac­tivists and soc­cer fans on Thurs­day par­tic­i­pate in a march from the head­quar­ters of the al-ahly club to­ward the Egyp­tian gen­eral pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice in down­town Cairo to protest against what they say is the slow pace of pro­ce­dures taken by the gov­ern­ment to find and hold ac­count­able those re­spon­si­ble for soc­cer vi­o­lence in Port Said that claimed scores of vic­tims. Ara­bic on the ban­ner reads, “The glory for mar­tyrs.”

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