Live Updates: Up-to-the-minute developments in the aftermath of Port Said verdict

Jamie Craggy, Hazel Haddon, Salma Shukrallah, Nada Rashwan, Osman El Sharnoubi, Bel Trew, Karim Hafez, Saturday 9 Mar 2013

Two police officers get 15 year sentences, but 7 police officers and both Masry club officials are acquitted in the Port Said killings trial; angry Ahly fans set fire to buildings in Cairo

An Egyptian soccer fan of Al-Ahly club raises a banner honoring fellow fans killed in a 2012 stadium riot in the club headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, March 9, 2013 (Photo: AP)

17:50 Speaking after the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) HQ in Cairo was torched by angry Ahly fans on Saturday afternoon, the sporting body’s chief executive, Sarwat Swelam, has told state news agency MENA:

"The situation is very difficult. The EFA headquarters was totally burned and president Gamal Alaam will return from abroad to attend today's urgent meeting." 

17:45 A minor fire has broken out at Qasr El-Dobara school inside Qasr El-Dobara church near the US Embassy, Al-Ahram Arabic reports.

17:40 The protester killed by teargas inhalation near Qasr El-Nil bridge this afternoon was Fadel Ahmed Abdel-Qader, 36, the emergency services chief has said.

Fadel was transferred to Qasr El-Eini hospital suffering from breathing problems and died soon after, Abdel-Qader added.

Fourteen people, including nine suffering from teargas inhalation and four injured in the fire at the Police Club in Gezira, have been transferred to the police hospital in Agouza and the Al-Moalmeen hospital in Gezira.

17:30 Ahram Online’s Bel Trew describes the scene outside the Port Said security directorate as “bizarrely calm” despite initial anger at the verdict. Only hundreds remain in the area, she adds. 

17:25 Rioters have thrown stones and Molotov cocktails at the Semiramis hotel near Cairo's Tahrir Square, destroying part of the entrance, Al-Ahram Arabic reports.

The hotel has been attacked a number of times in recent months.

Read this article to find out how the hotel was raided by armed assailants in late January:

17:15 The interior ministry has issued a statement urging people to stay away from clashes between protesters and police on Qasr El-Nile Bridge, warning it will respond “strictly” to attacks on security forces in the area.

The statement also called on political and revolutionary forces to act responsibly and help bring the violence to an end.  

17:10 Hardline Islamist group Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, and its political arm the Building and Development Party, have called on Ultras Ahlawy and Port Said residents to “open a new chapter” and reconcile.

In a statement published on Saturday afternoon, the groups also called for people to respect the judiciary and follow legitimate legal appeal mechanisms.   

17:00 Mohamed El-Kady, deputy chief of El-Sharq Police Station, who is currently on strike, has condemned the interior ministry in an interview with Ahram Online’s Bel Trew:

"I don't have an answer for what happened at the stadium on that day [1 February 2012] last year. It was a mess. But do you think we would organise something that would get officers killed? We want to say that we are not the Brotherhood’s police, we are the people's police and we're not here just to protect the regime any more - we learnt our lesson after the resignation of Hosni Mubarak. The Ministry of Interior is at point zero - it's even worse than during Mubarak's time. The current ministry is asking us to be violent. They should know what the consequences of their actions will be - when they asked us to move the prisoners [last week], which sparked the recent clashes in Port Said, they should have known the people would respond violently and we would have to respond in kind." 

16:55 Mohamed Sultan, head of Egypt’s emergency medical services, says one protester has died due to teargas inhalation during clashes between protesters and police on Qasr El-Nile Bridge.

At least fourteen have been injured in the clashes, Sultan added.

16:30 Ultras Ahlawy, in a statement on its official Facebook page, has condemned the acquittal of police officers in the trial and warned of further escalation:

“Today’s acquittals of most of the police ‘dogs’ are a clear sign that the trial was a sham and the officials we stressed should be convicted were intentionally found innocent.

“What happened today in Cairo is only the beginning of our rage. Even more of it will surface if all officials involved in the massacre are not put on trial. We will not be placated by the sentencing of just two police ‘dogs’.”

16:20: Speaking to Bel Trew in Port Said, Rahid Mohamed Atef, a police officer, has cast doubt on the guilt of some the convicted men:

"We are against the verdict and the trial because it was chaos after the Port Said stadium disaster and we didn't know who to arrest - so we arrested anyone who had been in prison before and people who we were pretty sure might be behind it. There were hundreds arrested, so there may be people on trial who are innocent. There is an engineer among the 21 being sentenced to death, he doesn't look like a killer."

16:10 Ibrahim El-Masry, ex-footballer and supporter of relatives of Port Said’s martyrs and defendants facing the death sentence, has told Bel Trew:

"I feel like the government is taking us left and right, they have taken the subject so far away from what we want. They have forgotten our own demands and the rights of the people who have been killed. They are ignoring us."

16:05 Over in Port Said, Ahram Online’s Bel Trew has interviewed Aly Spice, founder of Port Said’s Green Eagles Ultras:

"We will focus on big acts of civil disobedience across Port Said, until our demands are fulfilled," Aly Spice said. "We want a retrial with a fair judge, justice for those killed in the recent clashes by security forces and the 21 defendants facing the death penalty not to be executed. We are being targeted because the address on our IDs is Port Said - it's tantamount to racism. It is all because President Mohamed Morsi and his government are bowing to pressure from the Ahly Ultras, as they are widespread across the country. We were persecuted for three decades under Mubarak, and Morsi is continuing this." 

15:40 Turkish Anadlou news agency has quoted members of Ultras Ahlawy warning the prosecutor-general that if he does not order the retrial of acquitted security officials by 7pm on Saturday they will escalate using “illegitimate methods.”

Anadlou quoted a judicial source dismissing the Ultras' threat and saying the judiciary would not be responding to each and every statement about the trial. 

15:30 Mourad Ali, a media consultant for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), stated on his Facebook account: “Those benefiting from chaos are not the simple workers, or the peasants or the employees seeking a better living; but it is those who seek to defend their corruption,” referring to the acts of vandalism that followed the verdict.

“Together we made a revolution to establish a state of law which respects judicial decisions and provides fair retribution...regardless of whether we are satisfied with the verdict or not we should respect it and [if necessary] use legal measures to appeal it.”

He further urged media and politicians not to use the verdict to create public anger and spread more chaos.  

15:15 Also in Port Said, Mohamed El-Araby, a member of the Revolutionary Socialists, told Osman El Sharnoubi that the verdict was did not surprise him.

“They had to placate the Ultras, who they know have the ability to disrupt civil activity, like when they besieged the stock exchange. The government, therefore, sacrificed Port Said,” he said.

15:00 Retired Port Said resident Awad El-Gueily, speaking to Ahram Online’s Osman El- Sharnoubi, says the city’s residents are “boiling with rage.”

“We were expecting five to ten year sentences, but the death sentences made us feel like we were the scapegoats for [the government's] deeds. We want retribution for those who died amongst us,” he said.

14:55  In Port Said, commander of the second army division Ahmed Wasfy, speaking from his navy vessel, told onlookers at the ferry port that a ferry was going to arrive, and urged them to protect it from any possible assault, reported Ahram Online’s Osman El Sharnoubi. Military police are increasing in the vicinity of the ferry port.

14:45 Police have blocked all the roads leading to the interior ministry headquarters in downtown Cairo, which is also surrounded by Central Security Forces and barbed wire. Security has been also increased around Cairo Security Directorate.

14:35 The Egyptian health ministry reports that five have been injured as a result of the fires at the Police Club and the EFA headquarters.

14:30 Hundreds of Ultras are reported to have attacked fire engines trying to reach the torched buildings of the Police Club and the Egyptian Football Association, using rocks and Molotov cocktails. Several firemen have been injured and some trucks’ windows were smashed, reported Ahram’s Arabic website.

Officials have started to redirect traffic in Zamalek, while police are intensifying security in the vicinity of the of Shura Council and Cabinet headquarters, fearing potential attacks.

14:25 There are reports that the Egyptian football league will be suspended; however, the head of the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) told state television that a formal decision on suspending the league will only be taken after an emergency meeting at 6pm, to take place in EFA offices in 6 October City just outside Cairo.

14:00 Spokesman for the Suez Canal Authority Tarek Hassanein told state news agency MENA that the canal has not been affected by protests and that shipping traffic is “completely safe,” adding that earlier attempts by protesters to block ferry passage in Port Said’s Mediterranean seaport did not affect the canal’s traffic in any way.

13:55 Army spokesperson Ahmed Ali announced on his Facebook page that two helicopters will be sent to extinguish the fire in Gezira, where the Police Club and Egyptian Football Association are located.

13:50 Ahram Online’s Karim Hafez reports that hundreds of Ultras are heading from Ahly Club in Zamalek to the Supreme Court in downtown Cairo, protesting the verdict. Others refused to join, and some are still discussing how to escalate their protests.

13:45 A state television reporter who is at the scene says there are injuries among workers at the Police Club, which they got while trying to stop assailants from setting the place ablaze. Others are reported to have suffered from suffocation because of the smoke.

13:35 The management of Ahly football club has given a measured response to the verdicts.

"The court's verdict was fair for Ahly fans," the Ahly board said in a statement on the club's official website.

"The club's management has full confidence in Egypt's judiciary and we support the prosecutor-general's decision to appeal the 28 acquittals."

"We will continue supporting the families of Port Said football victims and will not give up until we obtain justice for their sons," concluded the statement.

13:30 Talking to Ahram Online’s Karim Hafez, workers at the Police Club say the place was torched by what they described as young people wearing red, the colour of Ahly football club, around 45 minutes after the announcement of the court verdict.

13:29 State television reports that some protesters in Port Said are attempting once more to stop the local ferries from running.

13:25 A spokesman for the prosecution, Hassan Yassin, told state news agency MENA that the prosecutor-general does not intend to file an appeal against the trial’s acquittals. Yassin said that the prosecution will only do so if, after studying the details of the verdict, it finds that the verdicts were inadequate compared to the evidence provided to the court.

13:20 Head of the fire brigade at the interior ministry Abdel-Aziz Tawfiq tells state television that some people are not allowing fire fighting trucks to reach the Police Club and the Egyptian Football Association, where buidlings are currently on fire.

Twelve trucks were prevented from reaching their destinations, according to Tawfiq, while two reached the Police Club and two the Association building.

13:15 An Ahram Online reporter says that one fire fighting truck is heading to the Police Club. State television footage shows the Police Club buildings ablaze.

13:00 As things get tense in Cairo, it seems that the atmosphere in Port Said might be calming down. Hundreds are again gathered at the governorate headquarters but the crowd is no longer chanting, reports Ahram Online’s Osman El Sharnoubi.

12:55 Members of Ultras Ahly briefly blocked Sadat metro station, located in Tahrir Square, reported state television, but the blockade ended quickly and the metro is now functioning normally again.

12:50 Head of the railways authority Hussein Zakaria has announced that trains to and from Port Said will be halted for security reasons.

12:40 The Ultras who were marching into downtown Cairo have turned around and are going back to the Ahly Club.

12:38 Ahram Online's Karim Hafez reports that members of the Ultras are running out of the Egyptian Football Association building carrying trophies that they have taken.

Having ransacked the building the Ultras are going back to the Ahly Club to await instructions from their capos.

12:35 State television has confirmed that members of the Ultras have stormed the Police Club and set it on fire.


The Ultras are angry that only two of the police officers were convicted while seven were acquitted in the case.

The Egyptian Football Association building, adjacent to the Ahly Club was also ransacked and set on fire, according to Filgoal, a leading Egyptian sports news website.

Egyptian Federation for Football
Egyptian Football Association building (Photo: Karim Hafez)

12:30 Confusion at Ahly Club. Members of Ultras are asked by their capos to go back into the club, having just been asked to leave.

12:20 Army tanks are securing the Cabinet headquarters and the Shura Council in downtown Cairo.

Members of the Ahly Ultras are now marching across 6 October Bridge in central Cairo, heading downtown, where many key ministries, including the interior ministry, are located. The march is blocking traffic in one direction.

12:15 Reuters reportsfrom Port Said that protesters have untied moored speedboats used to supply shipping on the Suez Canal, apparently hoping the boats would drift into the waterway and disrupt passing vessels.

Military police recovered five boats and brought them back to shore, but two were still drifting, one witness told Reuters.

12:10 The Police Club building in Gezira, close to the Ahly Club, is on fire.

12:05 At the Ahly Club in Cairo, a number of capos, the leaders of the Ultras groups, are asking the Ultras to leave the training pitch where they are gathered. A police helicopter is currently hovering above the stadium.

12:00 In Port Said, hundreds of angry protesters are threatening to stop the ferries that cross from one side of Port Said to the district of Port Fouad, which is on the other side of the water.

An army officer speaking to protesters in the area gives a friendly warning that the army’s sixth fleet is position outside Port Said and ready to take over the city if clashes erupt between citizens and the military.

Navy boats are circulating in the water.

Ahram Online's Osman El Sharnoubi reports that the mood among the protesters so far is calm, and some are dispersing.

11:50 Head of the Constitution Party and prominent opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei makes a sarcastic comment on events on his Twitter account.

"Awaiting details of verdict to know who is the ‘mastermind’ behind the Port Said massacre and learn the truth about what is happening in Egypt. I hope it is not the invisible hand that has been haunting us for two years."

11:45 In Port Said, some protesters are attempting to storm the port, reports Ahram Arabic website.

Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters have started marching from the Port Said governorate headquarters down Gomhoreya Street, one of the city’s main streets, chanting against the justice minister and the interior minister.

11:40 Ahly Ultras continue to flow into the Ahly Club Stadium in Cairo. According to Ultras members, the Ahly administration is meeting to issue a statement.

11:35 Chants in the crowd outside the Port Said governorate office are calling for retribution for those killed in recent clashes, reports Osman.

11:32 Hundreds of protesters are starting to gather at the Port Said governorate headquarters. They are planning to move to the Suez Canal ferry of Port Fouad close by, says Ahram Online’s Osman El Sharnoubi.

Bel Trew reports that some protesters are discussing whether or not to shut down the canal.

11:30 A judicial source tells Ahram Arabic website that Egypt’s prosecutor-general has instructed prosecutors to file an appeal against the 28 acquittals.

11:25 Ahram Online’s Bel Trew reports from Port Said that some cameramen are being attacked by rioters and having their equipment broken. She says that people with cameras are being targeted.

11:20 Ahly Ultras are now gathering at the club’s main training field, angry with the acquittal of the security officials. Families of the slain football fans present at the club are also very angry, says Ahram Online’s Karim Hafez.

Everyone is waiting for the decision of the capos, the Ultras leader. There are occasional anti-police chants as Ultras wait.

al ahly club
In the Ahly Club Stadium in Zamalek, Cairo, Ahly fans are gathering. (Photo: Karim Hafez)

11:15 We now have a detailed breakdown of the verdict.

The 21 death sentences announced in the 26 January session were confirmed.

Five defendants received life sentences.

Two policemen were convicted; former Port Said security director Essam Samak and the head of the Port Said water bodies security department, Mohamed Saad, both received 15 year sentences.

Eight other defendants received 15 year sentences.

Six defendants received 10 year sentences.

Two defendants received 5 year sentences.

One defendant received a one year sentence.

Among the 28 defendants who were acquitted were the seven other police officers. They include the former head of Port Said police investigation department Mostafa Razaz, former head of the Central Security Forces in the Suez Canal area Abdel-Aziz Sami, and former head of Port Said national security directorate Bahy El-Din Zaghloul. The other four police officers were all aides of these senior officials.

Also acquitted are the only two officials from Port Said’s Masry club who were charged, Major General Mohsen Sheta who executive director of Masry club at the time of the events, and former head of security at the club Mohamed El-Desouki.

10:50 El-Sayed Hafez, a retired resident of Port Said, tells Ahram Online: “The verdict is politicised...only two of the police officers were convicted."

“[President Mohamed] Morsi doesn’t care about Port Said, he just wants to placate the Ultras,” he said, adding that he doubts any confrontations with the army will occur.

“Our fight is with the Interior Ministry,” he said.

Police completely withdrew from Port Said on the eve of the verdict on Friday after days of ongoing bloody clashes.

10:45 Ahly fans gathered in Zamalek are still deciding what their reaction will be. An Ultras leader known as Abdenyo told confused Ultras, who are still arguing whether the verdict is sufficient, that the decision as to what the next step will be will be decided within ten minutes.

The Ultras not satisfied that three security officials were acquitted. They are also particularly angry that Masry club’s executive manager Mohsen Sheta has been acquitted.

10:40 Lots of disagreement on Twitter and in the media about the exact details of some of the sentences, the numbers acquitted etc.

10:35 The Ultras Green Eagles, fans of Port Said’s Masry football club, are calling for members to gather at Port Said stadium at 12pm, describing the verdict as politicised and announced to please particular parties.

10:30 Youth activists in Port Said are telling Bel Trew that there will be a massive strike across the entire city, along with a civil disobedience campaign, to protest the verdicts.

The city is still calm, but people seem to be reeling from shock. Many are weeping publically. Some of the young activists Bel is talking to know the defendants who have been sentenced to death personally.

10:25 Despite an initial moment of celebration, some Ultras Ahlawy are not satisfied with the verdict, says Ahram Online’s Karim Hafez, and are insulting those celebrating. They say the 24 acquitted should also have been given sentences.

Karim reports that celebrations have largely stopped and arguments are breaking out. The mood has turned tense.

10:22 It seems the total number of defendants acquitted is 24.

10:20 Angry roars in Port Said as the verdict was announced. Ahram Online reporter Bel Trew describes people in the coastal city as horrified. Some can be seen holding head in hands, others are crying. 

Port Said
In Port Said, residents react to the verdict (Photo: Bel Trew)

The court has confirmed the previously-issued death sentences for 21 Port Said residents.

10:18 We're hearing that there were five life sentences announced, not four. More details on the verdicts.

10:15 Celebratory fireworks and anti-police chants at the fans demonstration at the Ahly Club.

10:10 The new sentences include four life sentences; ten prison sentences ranging from 10-15 years; five sentences of ten years; two sentences of five years; around a dozen have been acquitted of all charges.

10:05 The judge has confirmed the death sentences of the 21 defendants issued in the previous verdict.

The leading policeman on trial has been given 15 years in prison.

10:00 The judges have arrived in the courtroom to announce the verdict.

9:50 A lawyer speaking to state television from the court says that he expects that the verdict will not be postponed as many have predicted, but that the accused will be given different sentences, some including 15 to 20 years. He says, however, that this verdict would still be appealed.

9:45 The area around the Police Academy in the suburb of New Cairo where the trial is being held is so far calm. Dozens are already inside the hall of the building. Families of victims were not present as the court had announced that only the defence and the accused, as well as media personnel with permits, will be allowed inside.

Nine accused security officials are expected to arrive at the court soon.

The verdict is expected to be announced within minutes.

9:30 Port Said is quiet so far, according to Ahram Online’s Osman El Sharnoubi. The street cafe where families of the defendants usually gather is still closed.

The city, however, is full of local and foreign journalists expecting what could be another bloody day. The coastal city has seen recurrent clashes between locals and police since the first verdict on 26 January.

Residents complain of injustice, believing the verdict was politicised and defendants were scapegoated. They say that security forces are the real perpetrators, as they let the violence escalate at the match last year.

9:00 Hundreds of hardcore fans of Ahly football club, belonging to fan groups the Ultras Ahlawy and the Red Devils, have already gathered at the Ahly Club in Cairo's Zamalek awaiting the crucial court ruling that will determine the fate of defendants in the infamous February 2012 football massacre case, when over 70 Ahly fans were killed in Port Said after a match with local side Masry.

An initial court ruling in January sentenced 21 Masry fans to death for their role in the events. Ultras Ahlawy are eagerly awaiting the second ruling, which the group hopes will convict the nine security officials among the 52 remaining defendants.

"We want the police officers to receive at least 20 years, so we can feel that we got our revenge," Sayyed, an Ultra member, told Ahram Online.

Huge flags with the pictures of the slain fans and a banner that read “72; we will not forget you” referring to the fans who were killed are displayed at the protest.

Traffic in Zamalek has been redirected to avoid the vicinity of the club, which is now full of Ahly supporters.

8:30 Good morning. Ahram Online will now open its live coverage of the day's events. For more on the background of the protests, please read Ahram Online's coverage here:

Egypt security forces prepare for expected protests ahead of the second chapter of the contentious verdict in the ongoing trial of those charged with complicity in the 2 February 2012 Port Said stadium disaster. The fate of 52 remaining defendants, which include nine security officials and Port Said Masry club staff, will be decided Saturday. 

More than 70 Ahly football fans were killed in post-match clashes, following an ill-tempered Egyptian Premier League game between the Cairo-based team and Port Said's Masry club. The aftermath of the shocking incident pitted both sets of fans against each other as they sought to pressure authorities into fulfilling their separate demands.

On 26 January, Port Said criminal court sentenced 21 out of 73 defendants to death for their involvement in a football riot. The verdict sparked violence that left over 40 dead in Port Said. Ever since, the city has been witnessing mass protests and intermittent clashes.

Over the course of the last week, hundreds have been injured and at least five killed in the restive coastal city when street battles broke out between anti-government protesters and security forces who had attempted to move 39 of those facing trial to an unknown location.  

In Cairo, Ahly Ultras, for their part, have staged acts of civil disobedience in the capital and their own protests as they await the outcome of the potentially explosive court rulings. 


Short link: