Defendants plead ‘not guilty’ in Port Said case
CAIRO - Agence France-Presse
Hundreds of Al-Ahly fans shout slogans against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) during a march in this file photo from Apr 4, 2012, demanding justice for the victims of the deadly Port Said incident. AFP PhotoDefendants pleaded “not guilty” yesterday in the trial of 75 people in connection with Egypt’s worst football disaster which left more than 70 people dead in Port Said in February.
The defendants began to plead “not guilty” as some chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest), denying the charges of premeditated murder and possession of weapons.
Amid chaotic scenes aired live on television, defendants dressed in white climbed on benches inside the cage, pointing to security officials on trial in the same case and blaming them from the violence.
One of the accused shouted that he had been brought in as a witness in the case but was shocked to find out that he had been charged along with the rest.
“We will die like them, or bring them justice,” the defendants cried, echoing the chant on the streets during the protests that followed the football disaster on February 1 in the northern city of Port Said.
The judge suspended the hearing as relatives of those who died in the violence, some holding pictures of their dead loved ones, sobbed in court. Nine policemen are among the defendants in the trial, which is being held in Cairo for security reasons, amid a massive security plan by the interior ministry and army.
The February 1 clashes in the Suez Canal city erupted at the final whistle. Al-Masry fans invaded the pitch after their team beat the visitors 3-1, throwing rocks, bottles and fireworks at Al-Ahly supporters.
The violence in which more than 70 people were killed was one of the deadliest incidents in football history.