Fourteen Zamalek Club fans implicated in the Air Defense Stadium violence case were sentenced to prison on Sunday by the North Cairo Criminal Court, and two others were acquitted. The case stems clashes which killed at least 20 football fans in February 2015.
The prosecution accused defendants of belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, thuggery, premeditated murder, vandalism, attacking security forces and the possession of explosives.
Defense lawyer Mokhtar Mounir told Mada Masr that all defendants were cleared of belonging to the Brotherhood and premeditated murder. Those who were sentenced were indicted on charges of thuggery, vandalism and the possession of explosives, among other charges.
He added that the 14 who were sentenced will appeal the court’s decision within 60 days, in accordance with Egypt’s criminal procedures law.
The court issued two life sentences and LE20,000 fines to Mostafa Abdel Meguid and Fathi Rafee in absentia. Three defendants, Mohamed Shahat al-Abbasy, Yasser Othman Abdel Azim and Ashraf Hamdan Qassem received 10-year sentences and LE10,000 fines, and five more, Al-Sayed Ali Fahim, Ramadan Saad Sayed, Mostafa Mahmoud Khairy, Omar Sherif Hosni and Mostafa Hamdy Abdel Naby, were given also handed a LE10,000 fine alongside seven-year prison sentences. Defendant Saber Ali Abdelwahed was issued a five-year sentence, and Amgad Mohamed al-Esseily was issued a three-year sentence while Shabaan Aboul Eit was sentenced to three years in absentia. Ahmed Ali Abdel Azim was given two years in prison, and the court acquitted Gamal Abdel Nasser Khalil and Omar Salah Youssef Mabrouk.
Lawyer Mohamed Fathi, also a member of the defense team, told Mada Masr that Aboul Eit is a minor who was tried in absentia for theft. As he had previously been acquitted, and had not attended any subsequent court sessions. “Aboul Eit watched the game then left the stadium. He was arrested later on the ring road after getting into an argument with a tuk tuk driver,” the lawyer said. He added that Abdel Azim who received two years in prison, was sentenced on charges of sheltering fugitives.
In post published on his personal Facebook account on Sunday, Fathi said that as all defendants were acquitted of murder charges, the court should open a new investigation to determine who is responsible for the February deaths. He referenced accusations of involvement leveled by some victims’ families against Zamalek Club president and member of Parliament, Mortada Mansour, and Mohamed Ibrahim, who was the interior minister at the time of the incident. He added that the prosecution repeatedly requested Mansour’s presence at court for questioning, but he did not attend as Parliament refused to lift his parliamentary immunity.
The incident at the Air Defense Stadium unfolded on February 8, 2015 when Zamalek fans attempted to enter the stadium to attend a game between the Zamalek Club and the ENPPI Club. Clashes broke out as security forces fired tear gas canisters at the fans, claiming they were attempting to enter the stadium without valid tickets.
An eyewitness previously told Mada Masr that a recently constructed metal corridor into the stadium obstructed the way for fans who were trying to escape the tear gas. A stampede broke out as fans tried to flee, killing at least 20 and injuring dozens of others.
According to lawyer Malek Adly, many lawyers have criticized the investigation into the stadium violence, and the Zamalek Football Club’s hardcore fan group, the Ultras White Knights, and the families of several of the victims have accused Mansour of being responsible for the deaths. However, these assertions were ignored by the prosecution throughout the trial, Adly added.
In a statement issued on Saturday, ahead of the sentencing, the Ultras White Knights insisted that the purpose of the case was to “redirect suspicion from the real murderer, who enjoys his freedom while Zamalek fans are tried unjustly in his stead.” The fan association called for the acquittal of all defendants, and demanded justice for those who were killed.
The statement called the proceedings a “show trial,” asserting that “It is well known who fired tear gas at Zamalek fans trapped in a place enclosed on three sides … And it is known who withheld tickets from the crows in order to instigate clashes with security forces in an ambush.”