Cassation Court upholds final death sentences in Port Said stadium massacre case

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The Egyptian Cassation Court upheld on Monday death sentences that had previously been handed to 10 defendants in the Port Said stadium massacre case of 2012, which lead to the death of 74 football fans.

Monday’s verdict is final. The court also upheld prison sentences for some of the defendants while changing the sentences of others.

Previously, the defendant’s lawyers had argued that their clients did not commit the actions intentionally, while also claiming that the investigation process was flawed and that the court ignored documents.

There are 73 defendants in total in the case, who previously underwent an initial trial and later a retrial. The first sentence was delivered in January 2013, when 21 defendants were sentenced to death. The second verdict came in March 2013, when the 21 death sentences were ratified, with five receiving life sentences, ten handed 15-year sentences, two receiving five years, and one man receiving a one-year sentence. Subsequent appeals have brought the cases in front of the Cassation Court.

The defendants are accused of several crimes, including premeditated murder and possession of explosives and weapons. The case refers to clashes that occurred at the end of a match between Cairo’s Al-Ahly team and Port Said-based Al-Masry in February 2012. The clashes that broke out between the two sides led to the deaths of 74 Al-Ahly fans, while the police—though present—did not intervene.

The killings were a result of the ensuing violence; stabbing, beating, being crushed by the stampede, or being thrown off the upper tier of the stadium seatings.

Fans of the two teams share a deep-rooted rivalry, which often surface in the form of minor clashes, but never resulted in causalities until the Port Said stadium massacre.

Since their creation in 2007, the two dominant Ultras groups, Ultras Ahlawy and Ultras White Knights (UWK), have engaged in numerous clashes with police forces. The Ultras have become known for their anti-police and anti-government slogans, and they played a key role in the 25 January Revolution.

Members of the groups have been targeted by police authorities and state security, as members have been subject to arrest, detention, and interrogation over alleged terrorism charges.

Late prosecutor general Hisham Barakat claimed that Muslim Brotherhood members provided UWK members with money and explosive materials to commit violent acts and to riot during the Air Defence Stadium clashes in February 2015. The violence led to the death of 20 fans.

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