Port Said trial starts amidst disruptions, calls for new charges

Ahram Online, Tuesday 17 Apr 2012

Judge twice adjourns Port Said football disaster trial when defendants chant against Mubarak and deny any role in the 74 deaths; Ahly and Zamalek Ultras protest SCAF outside court building; case postponed till May

Ultras protest in the aftermath of the Port Said massacre(Photo: Mai Shaheen)

Judges overseeing the Port Said football disaster trial postponed the case until May to listen to eyewitnesses.

The first session of the trial was twice adjourned on Tuesday when defendants, who deny any role in the disaster, began yelling from inside their cage.

Ten minutes into the morning session one of the defendants began shouting, "One, two... where is Hosni Mubarak?" in possible reference to the widespread allegation that the regime of the ousted president was behind the disaster and the people of Port Said are being used as scapegoats.

The session resumed after half an hour when order was restored.

After the session resumed, Ragaei Atteya, the victims' lawyer, read out the name of every person who died during the Port Said disaster.

The defendants recited the fateha (opening verses of the Quran) to bless the souls of the victims after Atteya had finished reading the list.

An Ahly club lawyer for the victims then demanded the court issue specific charges against the interior minister and the head of Port Said's Masry football club because he said they bore heavy responsibility for the disaster.

Port Said security chief Essam Samak denied all the charges against him.

Victims' lawyers also demanded charges be brought against Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypt's military leader, because he was running the country at the time of the disaster. 

A defendants' lawyer called for the trial to be moved to Port Said, or at least out of Cairo, for reasons of fairness. In addition, he called for Port Said's governor and head of forensics, and Ahly board members except Mahmoud El-Khateeb (who was out of the country at the time of the disaster) to face questioning.

He also asked to speak to Port Said's intelligence chief to "discuss" the case.

During the afternoon, the session was adjourned for a second time when the defendants began chanting "We'll die like them [the victims] -  if they don't get their rights," denying all allegations once more.

Hundreds of football Ultras have congregated in front of the Police Academy in Cairo Tuesday to follow the first session of the trial.

Ultras from the rival Ahly and Zamalek clubs stood united in front of the Academy, waving club flags and chanting against the ruling military council.

The court has been secured by thousands of Central Security Forces troops to prevent potential violence, and army tanks were also deployed.

On 1 February, football fans stormed the pitch at the Port Said Stadium following a heated match between rivals Ahly and Masry leaving 74 football fans dead and hundreds injured. Most of the deaths occurred during a stampede when Ahly fans tried to flee the stadium after the violence began.

Around 75 suspects, who were detained in the wake of the tragedy, face trial, most of whom are natives of Port Said.

A criminal court had decided on Thursday to transfer trial proceedings to the Cairo Police Academy away from the Suez Canal area for security reasons.

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