Egypt police arrest football fans over Port Said riot

Egypt police arrest football fans over Port Said riot
3 min read
28 February, 2017
At least 22 people were arrested on Monday after hundreds in Port Said protested death sentences against 10 residents for their part in a deadly 2012 football riot.
Egypt has a history of violence breaking out at football matches [AFP]

Security officials say police have arrested 22 people after hundreds went on a rampage in Egypt's coastal city of Port Said to protest death sentences for ten residents for their part in a deadly 2012 football riot.

The officials say protesters set tires ablaze, torched two police cars and pelted policemen with rocks on Monday night in the Mediterranean city's low-income residential area of Fatimah al-Zahraa.

The officials spoke on Tuesday on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to talk to reporters.

Egypt's highest appeals court last week upheld the death sentences against the ten for murder and other charges.

The 2012 riot - which killed at least 70 people - marked Egypt's worst ever incident of violence at a football stadium and occurred following a match between the Port Said based team al-Masry and Cairo's al-Ahly.

Clashes broke out at the fixture after al-Ahly fans allegedly displayed banners insulting the local team, prompting attacks by al-Masry fans armed with knives, clubs and rocks.

Many of those killed were crushed following a stampede as fans tried to escape the ensuing violence. Others, according to eyewitnesses, were thrown or fell from the terraces of the Port Said stadium.

The majority of those killed were al-Ahly fans.

Police forces at the stadium have been accused of failing to act to stop the violence by many Egyptians, including members of the country's parliament at the time.

Egypt has a history of violence breaking out at football matches between rival clubs.

Following the riot, Egypt's top football league was suspended for over a year.

It has since resumed and consequently state authorities have attempted to limit the number of fans in stadiums at matches, with supporters on occasion trying to storm stadiums they are banned from attending.

In February 2015, at least 22 Zamalek SC fans were killed after police fired tear gas and shotgun pellets into a thousand strong group of fans confined in a narrow passageway outside a Cairo stadium.

In May 2015, a Cairo court issued a ban against a countrywide network of football fans known as the Ultras White Knights prohibiting them from attending matches, congregating outside stadiums, and accusing them of complicity in acts of violence and riots.

The move was seen as having a political dimension, with Ultras fans playing a notable role in 2011 street protests that lead to the toppling of long-time President Hosni Mubarak.

Tensions between football fans and state security forces remain ongoing with over 80 al-Ahly fans detained earlier this month on suspicion of planning a protest on the anniversary of the Port Said riot.

Agencies contributed to this report.