Feature: Egyptian angry soccer fans vow to die for "martyrs of Port Said massacre"

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, January 25, 2013
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On the eve of the second anniversary of Egypt's Jan. 25 "uprising", angry soccer fans dubbed "Ultras Ahlawy" vowed to die in retaliation for over 70 fellow fans who were killed in early February last year in a stampede at Port Said Stadium after a match between Port Said's al-Masry and Cairo's al- Ahly.

"Jan. 26 will be a decisive day in the lives of many people, and it may be the end of the lives of other people who seek the right even if it costs them their souls," the Ultras, who refuse to talk to media outlets, said in a statement Thursday posted on their Facebook page.

The statement comes two days before Port Said Criminal Court, held in Cairo, issues its anticipated final verdicts regarding 73 defendants, including nine top security officials, accused of the tragedy.

It is also one day before the intended massive nationwide rallies in commemoration of the 2011 political upheaval and one day after the Ultras held several chaotic marches outside Egypt's stock exchange and other institutions, at an underground metro station, on a vital bridge, at Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo and elsewhere, causing disorder and blocking traffic as a warning message.

On Thursday, skirmishes between protestors and security men in Qasr al-Aini Street leading to Tahrir Square injured a protestor and a few security men. Among the protestors were some allegedly from Ultras Ahlawy as they put on black masks with al-Ahly logo.

The Ultras Ahlawy, whose zeal and interest were restricted to their support of Cairo's soccer team al-Ahly, have become part of Egypt's political equation and a significant force in the Egyptian streets as their rallies and protests for the rights of their murdered fellows in Port Said were approved by most Egyptians, except when it came to blocking public interests.

While iconic Tahrir Square was preparing for Friday's protests, with people, mostly youth, fixing tents and stages, Mohamed Hussein, a 27-year-old man, told Xinhua that "it is a case of public opinion as about 74 were killed and hundreds were injured. But the Ultras should only protest in a peaceful manner and demand the rights of Port Said martyrs without causing traffic jams or blocking public interests, which is completely rejected."

Hany Hassan, 35, said protests were required and the Ultras had the right to protest against injustice, but "vandalism and interruption of people's interests are not accepted."

On Jan. 22, President Mohamed Morsi issued a decree to include the victims of Port Said massacre among the martyrs of the 2011 " uprising." On the other hand, Prosecutor-General Talaat Ibrahim Abdullah has recently stated that the prosecution got new evidence in the Port Said case.

The Ultras received the above official statements as attempts to cool them down and as an introduction to delay the long-awaited final verdicts slated for Jan. 26.

They also suspected judiciary after it dropped on Jan. 19 the riot and vandalism charges against 378 defendants accused of being involved in Central Cairo's Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes in late 2011 between protesters and police.

Some political analysts disagree with the Ultras as they pressure judiciary to issue favorable verdicts in the case, believing "delaying the case is best for the time being."

"Retaliation for martyrs is a right demand that seeks wrong goals, as judiciary must take its time to establish justice. Delaying the case is one of the alternatives that should be considered," Ahmed Qandil, a political expert at al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Xinhua.

Qandil added that there must be patience with judiciary and investigations to convict the real wrongdoers not just to frame innocent people to please the public opinion.

For her part, Engy Hamdy, a member of the April 6 Youth Movement, told Xinhua that the furious soccer fans of al-Ahly "are loyal youth who demand retaliation without any political motives or calculations and they will not accept anything but justice."

She wondered why new evidence were introduced just a few days before the final verdict, stressing the Ultras did not exercise pressure on judiciary and the available evidence could convict the defendants.

With the countdown for the session on Port Said case, where a final verdict is expected, Egyptians are concerned about the possible eruption of violence in reaction to the verdict or its delay, which might add turmoil to the already chaos-stricken country. Endi

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