Ultras Ahlawy insist police officers face justice in Port Said case (VIDEO)

Nada Hussein Rashwan, Saturday 26 Jan 2013

Ultras Ahly welcome verdict sentencing 21 civilians to death for killing fellow fans in Egypt's worst football violence in Feb 2012, insist police officers and former military council leaders must be tried

Thousands of Ultras Ahly fans, ecstatic to celebrate Saturday's partial court verdict on the Port Said football violence disaster, vow to continue pressure until justice is fully served.

The Ahly fans demand the rest of the 73 defendants also receive the death sentence and they continue to press for the military to be prosecuted, whom they have accused of perpetrating the disaster.

The hardcore Ahly club fans erupted into celebration with fireworks and chanting at their Club grounds in Zamalek, Cairo upon hearing the court's verdict in the case against the accused of an attack on Ahly fans in Port Said stadium.

As soon as the death sentences were announced at around 10:00am, the street became an ecstatic scene with so many red-flamed fireworks shooting in the air that the street was filled with smoke.

Demonstrators then broke into their well-known obscene chants against Port Said football fans and the police, followed by cheers honouring those killed.

As celebration calmed down, some got teary-eyed, hugged each other and exchanged congratulations.

Twenty one have been handed the death sentence for their part in the killing of 74 Ahly fans during a match in Port Said stadium between Ahly and Masry on 1 February 2012.

"I am indescribably happy to the martyrs' rights respected. I'm also glad because it would have been a messy chaos if the verdict was lenient; it would have been out of our hands, but the country can't afford more chaos now," Ahmed, a 25-year-old Ultras member, told Ahram Online.

Some Ultras fans scaled the club walls to head to the main stadium, but soon the gate to the stadium was opened and protesters continued the celebration inside.

Hundreds of fans took to the pitch as hundreds of others stood on the stands, chanting loudly to the beats of their drums. Some fathers of the slain fans were carried on shoulders as they held up photos of their sons to the loud cheers honouring their names.

"I will go to the pitch and light fireworks myself. Today justice has been served," cried a mother to her son's friends, who had affectionately nicknamed her slain son "Koshari". The friends hugged and congratulated her.

All the entrances to the club and the roads leading from the club to Tahrir Square were blocked.

No security was present around the perimeter of the demonstration, although the Ultras had previously warned of violent reactions if the verdict was not satisfactory.

'Only the beginning'

The court has only ruled on the fate of 21 out of the 73 defendants Saturday. Nine security officials, three Masry football club officials and a number of fans are on trial for their suspected role in the disaster.

Verdicts on the remaining defendants - which notably include all accused police officers - have been postponed to 9 March.

That, however, did not spoil the celebrations, but the Ultras fans still chanted "Police is next".

"We will not celebrate any further until 9 March. Today we are only happy to see a martyr's mother happy for the first time since the revolution," said a statement issued on the Ultras Ahlawy Facebook page Saturday afternoon, the last part referring to the series of trials involving the slaughter of protesters in which officials accused of ordering their killing were acquitted.

The statement adds: "The more important part now is to focus on [punishments for] the interior ministry officials accused in the case, as well as the incrimination of military council leaders who incited [the disaster]. We will seek retribution, whether through the court or with our own hands, against all those who plotted and those murdered."

As a warning gesture from the hardcore fans that a “lenient verdict” will not pass peacefully, hundreds of Ultras Ahlawy members protested in Cairo on Wednesday, rallying before the stock exchange building and blocking the metro station and 6 October Bridge in the process.

They have staged many protests since the trial began last year, including violent onces which saw them storm the Egyptian Football Association headquarters and the nearby Ahly club.

"I don't think any of the defendants who have not received sentences today will be acquitted; maybe their verdicts were postponed due to the new evidence that surfaced last week," Ahmed posited aloud to Ahram Online.

He adds: "We will not stop at today. We'll be following through with the trial and continue to protest until the March session as well as the appeal for today's verdict."

The brief statement published on their Facebook page shortly after the celebrations echoes Ahmed's words, as they assured that Saturday's verdict is only the beginning in their quest for retribution.

In contrast to the Ultras joyous celebration in Cairo, chaos erupted in Port Said as the defendants' enraged families attempted to storm the prison facility where they are held.

'Military still responsible'

"The people want the execution of the field marshal" started chanting the people attending the Ultras celebration.

Many still hold the military responsible, and, in particular, former field marshal Hussein Tantawi, who was the de facto ruler. Ultras often accuse them of plotting the attack and/or facilitating the killings.

"I can't believe the field marshal is still not involved in the trial. It was the military that perpetrated the attack to get back at us for standing up to them and chanting against them in protests [during the revolution]," Ahmed told Ahram Online.

Ahmed, who was at the Port Said stadium on the day of the disaster, continues: "It was beyond a football riot. Some of those who were killing us were in their late thirties, obviously not Ultras members, and they knew what they were doing too well."

"The army was in charge of securing the gates, which were found to have been previously sealed to trap us in the stands. Then why weren't they prosecuted?" he asks.

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