Port Said Criminal Court sentenced 11 people to death on Tuesday on charges related to the 2012 Port Said stadium massacre case. One of the 11 was sentenced in absentia.
Three of the defendants have the right to appeal the sentence before the Court of Appeals, and the rest can still appeal it before the Court of Cassation according to defense lawyer Ashraf al-Ezaby, privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported.
The court also sentenced 10 other defendants to 15 years in maximum security prison, 14 defendants to 10 years in prison and 15 defendants to five years in prison, including former head of Port Said Security Directorate Essam Eddin Samak. One defendant was sentenced to a year in prison and 21 were found innocent.
In Egyptian laws, Egypt’s Grand Mufti weighs in on the death sentences and recommends that the court either upholds or changes the sentence. However, his recommendations are not binding.
According to Al-Masry Al-Youm, the Mufti agreed on the death verdict given to the defendants, citing “lack of evidence suggesting their innocence.”
The Mufti added that such sentences “discipline the aggressors and deter others from committing the same crimes,” which he described as “announcing war against society through threatening the security of its people and attacking their livelihoods, properties and souls.”
The case dates back to clashes that broke out between historical football rivals — Ultras Ahlawy and the Green Eagles, two hardcore fan groups of the Al-Ahly and Al-Masry football clubs respectively — during a soccer game between the two teams in February 2012. The clashes claimed the lives of 72 Ultras Ahlawy members who had allegedly been threatened by members of the Green Eagles before the game.
Police forces securing the game were criticized for failing to prevent supporters from rioting, while others accused them of being complicit in planning the massacre to revenge Ultras Ahlawy fans for their role in protests. Fans have frequently chanted against the police and the military council during previous games.
In January 2013, the court sentenced 21 defendants to death, and 5 others to life imprisonment in the same case. 28 of the defendants were acquitted, including police officers implicated in the massacre. The sentences were appealed in December of the same year.