Families of the condemned gather at Port Said's Cheef cafe after Saturday's verdict sentencing 21 to death (Photo: Bel Trew)
Amnesty International released a statement on 11 March slamming the death sentences handed to 21 people by the Egyptian court in the Port Said football violence trial.
"The trials which led to the death sentences seem to be more about scapegoating a few rather than providing answers about what happened on the day of the game and the role the authorities may have played," the statement read.
"The organisation opposes the death penalty in all cases as a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment," the Amnesty statement added.
According to Amnesty’s report, over 230 people have been sentenced to death since Egypt's January 25 Revolution.
Amnesty International had written to the Grand Mufti to urge him not to approve the death sentences, the statement explained. However, the New Cairo Criminal Court decided to move ahead and confirm the sentences after the Mufti had reportedly requested more time to review the case; although the Mufti’s approval is not legally binding.
"The investigation into the Port Said incident and trial were marred by reports that some of the defendants were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in detention," the international rights organisation stressed. "Amnesty International urges the Egyptian authorities to ensure any such allegations of torture or other ill-treatment are subject to an independent and impartial investigation."
Although it was widely believed that Egyptian security failed to prevent the Port Said violence and protect the victims, only two of the accused security officials were convicted with prison sentences while seven others were acquitted, the Amnesty report outlined.
The statement also referred to the violence the 26 January verdict had sparked in the canal city saying it had documented "excessive and unnecessary lethal force in the security forces’ response," including the use of firearms "when it was not strictly necessary to protect life."
"Amnesty International calls on the authorities to commute without delay all death sentences," the statement concluded.
The Port Said verdict on the remainder of the defendants was held on 9 March, 21 of the death sentences were confirmed and 28 were acquitted while five people were sentenced to life in prison.