At least 21 members of Al-Ahly FC’s hardcore fan base, Ultras Ahlawy, have been arrested by security forces nationwide in relation to controversial chants that took place during a match between Egypt’s Al-Ahly and Guinea’s Horoya AC on Saturday, Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression lawyer Mohamed Hafez told Mada Masr on Wednesday.
Hafez received reports from relatives and friends of 21 Ultras Ahlawy members detailing their arrests over the past several days. A number of fans were allegedly arrested from their homes by security personnel in civilian clothing, according to the reports, while others were apprehended from public places, including cafés.
The whereabouts of the 21 fans remain unknown as of yet, according to Hafez, who added that formal interrogations have not been conducted with any of the detainees, nor have charges been leveled against them.
During Saturday’s football game, which was held in the Military Production Stadium in Dar al-Salam in Cairo as part of the African Champions League, chants by football fans took a political turn, as attendees called for the release of detainees in Egypt and criticized the head of the Saudi General Sports Authority, Turki al-Sheikh, a major investor in Egypt’s sports industry.
Following the match, Sheikh announced on his official Facebook page that he is considering withdrawing his investments from Egypt due to “strange attacks from every side,” which he described as a “headache.”
Regarding the arrests known to have taken place, Hafez reported that 13 fans were arrested from Cairo, four fans from Alexandria, two from Kafr al-Sheikh, one fan from Banha and another from Tanta. However, these figures are not comprehensive, Hafez told Mada Masr, and more fans have been arrested in connection to the incident including people who did not attend Saturday’s match.
In mid-May, members of the Ultras Ahlawy permanently dissolved the fan group and their Facebook page was deleted.
Several Ultras Ahlawy members remain in remand detention after the Supreme State Security Prosecution accused them of leading or being members of a terrorist group, vandalizing public property, possessing fireworks and assaulting police personnel in Case 487/2018. Over 40 of the fans were arrested following clashes that took place during a match between Al-Ahly and Gabon’s CF Mounana on March 6.
In May 2015, the court of urgent matters banned the activities of Ultras football fan groups, officially labeling them terrorist organizations.