The Supreme State Security Prosecution ordered the release of three members of the Ahly Football Club’s fan group, popularly known as Ultras Ahlawy, on Monday and another on Sunday, according to Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression lawyer Mokhtar Mounir. The prosecution also renewed the detention of nine other fans for 15 days, pending further investigations into their participation in March clashes with security forces at Cairo Stadium, after which 46 Ahly ultras were arrested.
According to the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, on March 6, security forces attempted to arrest several fans after they moved into the upper deck of Cairo Stadium, above the press seats, an area that is closed off to fans. This led to a standoff with security forces inside the stadium, in which fans lit firecrackers, chanted against the police and broke stadium chairs. Altercations escalated following the match, with fans reportedly setting two police vehicles on fire.
According to Mounir, the 46 defendants were arrested either from the stadium or from their homes and they face charges of vandalizing public property, the possession of fireworks, assaulting police personnel and joining or leading a terrorist group, as part of Case 487/2018. Thirty-one fans remain in custody, held in Abu Zaabal Prison, the lawyer added, after eight were released in April and three others were released in June.
Dozens of Egyptian football fans have been detained on similar charges since the Ultras White Knights, the Zamalek Football Club’s fan group, and Ultras Ahlawy were outlawed by Egyptian authorities in May 2015.
In May of this year, Ultras Ahlawy decided to dissolve their group, posting a video on their official Facebook page that showed members setting fire to the Ultras’ banner to signify the end of the group’s activities. The Ultras Ahlawy official Facebook page was later deactivated. A source close to the group, speaking to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, verified the fan group’s dissolution.
Following the March clashes, Ultras Ahlawy issued several statements urging authorities to pardon the detained fans and vowing not to participate in similar altercations with security forces at future football matches. The group also called for dialogue to be conducted between its members and relevant state bodies to resolve the conflict.
*Correction: An earlier version of this article only reported on the Monday releases, and erroneously stated that 35 defendants remained in custody. It has been amended to include the Sunday release, and reflect the accurate number of remaining detainees. The piece also previously reported that seven were released in April, and has since been amended.