Egypt’s top prosecutor has charged 75 people with murder and negligence in connection with a deadly football riot last month in the Mediterranean city of Port Said.
A total of 74 people were killed after a riot erupted during an Egyptian League football match.
Egyptian health officials also said that at least 1,000 people were injured after fans chased Al Ahly soccer players after they lost a match to the home team.
The fans cornered supporters on the field in the port city of Port Said and around the stadium, throwing stones and bottles at them, which led to a stampede that killed the 74 fans.
witnesses at the venue. The incident has been labeled Egypt’s worst ever soccer stadium disaster.
“The accused were sent to a criminal court on charges of committing the crime of intentional and premeditated murder,” the general prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Thursday.
The crush followed a pitch invasion when Port Said-based al-Masry beat Cairo’s Al Ahly, the most successful club in Africa, on Feb. 2.
Steel doors at the stadium were bolted shut, trapping fans trying to escape from the stands and dozens were crushed to death, witnesses said.
Many fans blamed the government for a failure to send enough police to the stadium given the tense build-up to the match, and many believe the violence was sparked by hired thugs.
Live television footage showed fans running onto the field and chasing Ahly soccer players.
Hesham Sheiha, deputy health minister, told state television most of the injuries were caused by concussions and deep cuts, calling the incident “unfortunate.”
“The players’ room has turned into a morgue,” Ahmed Nagy, the team’s goalkeeper coach had said at the scene last month.
Violence at football matches across north Africa has increased significantly since political unrest sweeping across the region began more than a year ago.
Egyptian soccer fans known as “Ultras” took a front-line role in public protests that led to the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, and in subsequent protests against the army generals who took power when Mubarak fell.
Some ordinary Egyptians, media commentators and analysts said the Port Said violence was allowed to happen by the authorities as revenge against the Ultras.
A parliamentary enquiry blamed both fans and poor policing, and the Port Said head of security, Essam Samak, was fired.
State television said nine of the 75 people to stand trial were police officers. Two were minors who would be tried in a juvenile court.
The Port Said deaths sparked days of clashes between young men and riot police near the Interior Ministry in Cairo in which 16 more people were killed.
Hundreds of Ahli supporters gathered at the club’s Cairo ground on Thursday to protest at what they regarded as official foot-dragging over the disaster. Some wore black T-shirts reading “We won’t forget the 74.”