Egypt: Soccer fans detained on terrorism charges for chanting against police

Egyptian prosecutors ordered more than a dozen soccer fans detained on terrorism charges, days after they were arrested at a match for chanting against police “informants”

On April 26, the Supreme State Security Prosecution ordered 16 Al Ahly soccer club fans detained on terrorism charges.

Security forces arrested a group of fans during the match against Morocco’s Raja Club Athletic on April 22. One was arrested for raising a Palestinian flag, while others were arrested for their chants accusing certain fans of being “informants” for collaborating with the police.

The arrested fans were taken to a police station and then the Public Prosecution, where prosecutors charged them with “resisting the authorities” and “entering without tickets,” among other charges.

They were released on bail, but prosecutors then added at least 16 of them to a new case several days later on the more serious charge of joining a terrorist group.

In 2015, a court declared Ahlawy Ultras and all other hardcore fan groups across the country, many of which were on the front lines of the 2011 revolution, to be terrorist groups.

Security forces are continuing to round up more fans daily, such as 20-year-old Mohamed Ragab, whose home was raided by security forces at 3 am on April 27.

They will face their next investigation session on May 8, according to lawyer Mohamed Rashwan.

Hundreds of fans have called for a countrywide boycott of matches to protest the continuing arrests and charges.

Kept in prison despite release order

Meanwhile, the al Jazeera Mubasher journalist Hisham Abdel Aziz, who was arrested in Egypt four years ago, remains in detention despite prosecutors ordering his release last week, according to his family.

Authorities arrested the Qatar-based journalist at Cairo International Airport during a family vacation in June 2019 and kept him in pretrial detention for twice the legal maximum on terrorism-related charges.

After persistent calls for his release amid his failing health, the Presidential Pardon Committee finally announced on April 17 that the Public Prosecution had ordered the release of Abdel Aziz and 40 others.

Nine days later, however, Abdel Aziz is the only one among the 41 to remain behind bars, his wife tweeted today. His family says that they do not know the reason he is still detained and called on responsible authorities to “release him quickly, given his health condition and out of compassion for his family.”
Prosecutors frequently appeal court-ordered releases or rotate detainees into new cases on similar charges to keep them behind bars, but sometimes even prosecutors’ release orders are ignored.

Ahmed Sabry Nassef, who was arrested in 2017 as an 18 year old, is one example. After the Public Prosecution ordered his release in 2019, authorities forcibly disappeared him until they charged him in a new case months later.

Following two more years of pretrial detention, the Supreme State Security Prosecution ordered him released, but he was again illegally detained until he was added to yet another case. He remains in detention despite those two release orders and three acquittals in court.