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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Egypt releases more than 200 football fans accused of rioting

Police had detained hundreds of supporters of Cairo's Zamalek club following a July 9 game against Libya's Al Alhi SC, keeping 236 of them in detention ever since, said the defence lawyer of 100 of them

Fans of Egypt's Zamalek football club threw seats and stones towards police at the end of an African Champions League match against Libya's Al Ahli SC at the Borg El Arab stadium in Alexandria on July 9, 2017. Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters
Fans of Egypt's Zamalek football club threw seats and stones towards police at the end of an African Champions League match against Libya's Al Ahli SC at the Borg El Arab stadium in Alexandria on July 9, 2017. Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters

Egypt's military prosecutors have released more than 200 football fans who had spent more than five months in detention accused of vandalising a stadium and attacking police, a lawyer said on Monday.

Police detained hundreds of supporters of Cairo's Zamalek club after a July 9 game against Libya's Al Alhi SC, keeping 236 of them in detention ever since, said defence lawyer Mohamed Hafez, who represented more than 100 of them.

Following months of investigations, the military prosecution released them on Saturday "because there was not enough evidence to allow for a criminal trial", Mr Hafez said.

Their release was also reported by state media.

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The supporters were accused of destroying seats at Alexandria's Borg El Arab Stadium and attacking police, said Mr Hafez, who is also a lawyer at the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.

They were also accused of belonging to the Ultras White Knights, a group of hard core Zamalek supporters.

"There was rioting inside the Borg El Arab Stadium, and some of the seats were destroyed, and then about 600 of Zamalek's supporters were randomly arrested," he said.

Eight of the 236 had remained in detention on Saturday, apparently for investigation on other charges, although a further three were released on Sunday, he said.

In 2015, Egyptian authorities banned the ultras groups, hardcore supporters of local teams who were at the forefront of 2011 protests that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak and are openly hostile to the police.

Authorities had banned spectators from local matches after 2012 stadium riots in Port Said left more than 70 people dead, but spectators were allowed into the July match as it was an international fixture.

Other matches played in the presence of spectators since 2012 have also been marred by deadly violence.

In February 2015, police fired tear gas at fans who tried to push their way into a Cairo stadium. The ensuing stampede left 19 people dead.

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