Prominent political activist George Ishaq (photo: Ahram)
George Ishaq, veteran political activist and leading member of the opposition National Salvation Front, has deplored "the ongoing use of violence against protesters in the Suez Canal city of Port Said."
In an interview on Sada Al-Balad satellite channel on Monday night, Ishaq claimed security forces had fired birdshot pellets at the field hospital near the local governor's office in the city.
Clashes broke out between protesters and police in the restive canal city on Sunday after relatives of locals currently on trial for involvement in last year's Port Said football disaster were informed that the defendants would be transferred to a prison outside the city.
Police fired intense rounds of teargas throughout the day at stone-throwing demonstrators.
"Those who claim Port Said people are thugs, are themselves thugs. Port Said people are honourable and respectable," he said.
Ishaq argued that nothing would sap Port Said of its will, asserting that the crimes of the interior ministry would never be forgotten.
"Port Said people, to whom I belong, have been making sacrifices since [the Suez War in] 1956 and through the wars of 1967 and 1973. They are still making sacrifices today."
Egypt's health ministry says at least five people have died in clashes in the city since Sunday, including civilians and police officers, and hundreds have been injured.
Port Said has seen a series of riots and angry protests since 26 January, when a court recommended to the country's Grand Mufti 21 local residents receive the death penalty for their involvement in last year’s Port Said stadium disaster, in which 74 Ahly football fans were killed.
The final phase of the Port Said trial is slated for 9 March, when the 52 remaining defendants out of 73 will be issued verdicts.