Policemen among those charged after 74 fans die in Port Said riot

 

Egyptian prosecutors have charged 75 people in connection with a riot at a match in Port Said last month where at least 74 fans were killed. Scores of supporters have been charged with murder and nine police officers have been accused of complicity in the killings.

The riot began at the end of a league game between Cairo club Al-Ahly and Al-Masry of Port Said on 1 February. The home side won 3-1 but its fans set upon the rival supporters in a killing frenzy that witnesses said lasted 30 minutes.

The prosecutors have said the riot was planned in advance and that the culprits prepared for the massacre with knifes, rocks and explosives. Fans from the two teams have a history of animosity, but no one had expected it would turn murderous.

The report described how al-Masry fans threw al-Ahly supporters to their deaths from the terraces and how they detonated explosives in their midst as they became trapped in a corridor leading to an exit gate.

Many witnesses claimed policemen at the venue did nothing to stop the bloodshed.

The riot was the latest in a series of episodes which has taken place in increasingly violent Egypt since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in February last year.

The prosecutor's statement said the police at the match did nothing to stop al-Masry fans from attacking their rivals.

It read: "Those from the police among the defendants failed to take any measure to maintain security, protect lives and property."

The nine police officers included major general Issam Samak, who was Port Said's chief of security at the time of the riot.

The statement said the charges were based on video footage of the riot and the confessions of suspects. Among those charged is the chief electrical engineer of the Port Said stadium, a fact that alludes to numerous witness accounts that power inexplicably went out at the venue minutes after the final whistle.

The darkness, according to witnesses, helped the assailants to attack with freedom.

The Port Said riot led to the cancellation of the league in Epypt and sparked days of clashes in Cairo between police and protesters accusing the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of police, of doing nothing to protect al-Ahly fans.

The Egyptian football federation has yet to punish al-Masry for the riot but it is widely expected to relegate the team and ban them from playing at home.

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