Ultras White Knights leader starts hunger strike over prison conditions

The jailed leader of Zamalek football club’s fans, the Ultras White Knights, started a hunger strike in protest over his deteriorating health and bad prison conditions, his lawyer Osama al-Gouhary told Mada Masr on Thursday.

Ultras White Knights (UWK) leader Sayed Moshagheb faces charges in relation to the deadly events in front of Egypt’s Air Defense Stadium in 2015, and has been held in solitary confinement in Aqrab 2 maximum-security prison in the Tora Prison complex since his arrest seven months ago.

Gouhary explained that Moshagheb is the only prisoner on pretrial detention in Aqrab, which usually holds prisoners who have already been sentenced.

“He suffers from extremely difficult prison conditions. His health is also very bad, as he hasn’t been able to exercise or see sunlight, and lacks access to food and family visits,” the lawyer explained.

The UWK were the first to announce the news of Moshagheb’s hunger strike on Wednesday, adding that he suffers from a severe lack of calcium.

“Sayed is the only prisoner with a white gown in Aqrab 2 Prison, because he is still in pretrial detention, in addition to seven months of solitary confinement. This violates the Universal Declaration for Human Rights and all its treaties,” the UWK statement read.

Moshagheb was arrested following the Air Defense stadium events, when 22 Zamalek fans were killed in February 2015. A previous statement by the prosecutor general accused him and other UKW members of joining the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, thuggery associated with murder, vandalizing public and private property and possession of fireworks. He faces other charges in relation to the burning of the Nasr City Conference Center, despite preliminary investigations indicating the fire was the result of an electricity cut.

Investigations into the conference center case have been halted pending the result of the Air Defense Stadium trial, which is scheduled to resume on November 10, Gouhary said.

The influential Ultras member was also charged with attempting to assassinate the head of the Zamalek club, Mortada Mansour, but was acquitted of these charges in January.

Social media activists launched a campaign in support of Moshagheb’s hunger strike, using the hashtag #ادعم_سيد_مشاغب (Support Sayed Moshagheb). Supporters raised their hands in a sign Moshagheb is known for using.

“Sayed started a hunger strike against the poor conditions of his solitary confinement. Take a photo of Moshagheb’s famous fist sign and publish it in support of him,” activist Mahienour al-Massry wrote on Twitter.

Others followed and Tweeted their support, including activist Khaled Abdel Hamid.

“Support Sayed Moshagheb, the Zamalek head who refused to surrender in prison. They are trying to break him using all means possible, by depriving him of walking, seeing the sun, solitary confinement, not even allowing him to smoke,” activist Malek Mostafa tweeted.

A number of lawyers have criticized the Air Defense Stadium case, especially club fans and the families of the victims of the tragedy, accusing Mansour and the police of plotting to kill fans, according to previous remarks by lawyer Malek Adly.

But the prosecutor general told a different story: “As part of its attempts to destabilize the country, the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood organization used the relationship between its cadres and members of the UWK to provoke riots during the event, giving them money and arms to spread panic among citizens, to ensure the event was cancelled, and to derail the economic conference scheduled to take place in Egypt.”

The case dates back to February 8 last year, when 22 people were killed as they tried to attend a soccer game between Zamalek and Enby. Fans were trapped in a large cage at the entrance intended to control fans, and police fired teargas into the cage, causing a deadly stampede.

Police alleged that the fans did not have tickets and attacked police forces, forcing them to fire the teargas to disperse crowds.

AD