The Port Said Criminal Court on Saturday asserted that Egypt's worst-ever football disaster was not a spontaneous incident, holding supporters of Port Said football club Masry responsible for killing scores of rival fans on 1 February 2012.
Earlier this year, the court handed down severe punishments for those convicted of perpetrating the massacre, sentencing 21 to death, five to life imprisonment, eight to 15 years in jail, and six to ten years, along with several other smaller sentences. Out of 73 defendants in the case, 28 were acquitted.
Commenting on the sentences, which were handed down in two tranches (on 26 January and 9 March), the court charged Masry fans with premeditated murder, in reference to the incident in which over 70 fans of Cairo club Ahly were killed following a league game against Masry in Port Said Stadium.
"Once Ahly fans entered the stadium, they spotted two banners raised by their Masry counterparts. One of them read 'Your death will be here' and the other was an Ahly flag bearing [the Israeli] Star of David," the court asserted.
"Both groups of fans hurled insults at each other during the tense match... and after it ended, Masry supporters rushed from everywhere for the denouement of their criminal plot: killing the victims," the court added.
It went on: "They easily overcame the flimsy security barrier [separating the two sides] and ran to the opposite stands in large numbers. Before they climbed the terraces, they hurled a barrage of stones and firecrackers at the rival fans – many of whom were unarmed youths who had only come to watch the game – in order to terrorise them."
The Port Said Criminal Court also launched a scathing attack on Egypt's Ultras groups (hardcore football fan groups), saying the latter had flown off the handle when intervening in the affairs of local football clubs.
It also said the groups had been infiltrated by "rioters," who became more violent after having been "occasionally" mistreated by police.
Moreover, the court accused both football clubs and the media of failing to "properly deal with the [Ultras] phenomenon."
Die-hard fans of both Ahly and Masry shared only one belief: that the police had deliberately instigated last year's stadium disaster.
Two of the security officials responsible were convicted. Former Port Said security director Essam Samak and Mohamed Saad, head of the city's water-bodies security department, both received 15-year jail sentences.
However, the court accused the two officials of "negligence" rather than "complicity."
"The security director insisted on holding the game even though he knew beforehand that it was dangerous. But he wanted to prove to his superiors that he was worthy of their trust," the court stated.
It went on to assert: "The officer who guarded [one of the stadium's] gates shut it and did not hand the key over to any other officer. He left with the key and did not return, although he knew how dangerous the situation was."
The 73 defendants in the case included nine security officials, three Masry football club officials and a number of fans. Apart from Samak and Saad, however, all other security officials were acquitted.
Many Port Said residents have felt hard done following the rulings, saying the defendants had been made scapegoats by the authorities.
Over 40 people were killed in violent clashes between Port Said residents and police after the announcement of the first set of sentences in January.