Egypt Militarized: Football Fans Latest Civilians to be Tried in Military Courts

Published July 31st, 2017 - 03:00 GMT
Zamalek fans rip out seats of the Borg al-Arab stadium in Alexandria earlier this month (file photo)
Zamalek fans rip out seats of the Borg al-Arab stadium in Alexandria earlier this month (file photo)

“How is a fan going to a match equivalent to a terrorist killer?” One Egyptian on Twitter asked, after over 200 football supporters were sent for prosecution in a military court.

On July 9, fans of Zamalek football club rioted after they crashed out of the African Champions League following a draw with Libyan club al-Ahli.

Photos taken at the match show members of hard-core fan association the “Ultras White Knights” ripping seats out of Alexandria’s Borg al-Arab stadium, as well as throwing flares and other objects onto the pitch.

The supporters also allegedly clashed with stadium security causing multiple injuries.

Alexandria’s Public Prosecutor ruled last Thursday, July 27, that the rioters should be tried in a military court.


Responding to the recent ruling on the Zamalek riots, an online campaign has been launched, saying #NoToMilitaryTrialsForFans.

The Twitter account of the “Ultras White Knights” supports assocation simply tweeted the hashtag.

Others shared a poster calling for their fellow Zamalek enthusiasts to receive civilian trials.

Many fans had changed their profile pictures to the number 261, which they say is the number of supporters facing trial, although some media reports suggested the lower number of 235.


Football fans treated like traitors and terrorists. These are the youth of Egypt who will build the homeland!

Egypt’s football stadiums are well known for violence. In 2015, 20 Zamalek fans were killed in confrontations with security outside military-run stadium in Cairo, according to Egypt Independent news website.

Some Zamalek supporters were wearing t-shirts commemorating those who died on that occasion at the match on July 9, reportedly one of the reasons for their arrest.

More than 20 martyrs, more than 2000 arrested in fewer than four years #NoToMilitaryTrialsForFans

Justice Militarized

A Human Rights Watch report in April 2016 found that at least 7420 civilians had been tried in Egypt’s military courts since October 2014. That month, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi decreed a new law expanding military court jurisdiction.

The majority of those who had been referred for military trials under the new legislation were not for crimes relating to the armed forces, the report indicated. This is because the law essentially placed all public property under military jurisdiction.

The HRW report accused “al-Sisi’s administration [of using] the military justice system to expedite its harsh crackdown on opponents.” These include participants in protests and members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Apparently unsatisfied with tens of thousands already detained and speedy mass trials that discarded due process in the name of national security, al-Sisi essentially gave free rein to military prosecutors,” HRW’s Nadim Houry said.

“He has handed back to the military judiciary the powerful role it enjoyed in the months after Egypt’s uprising, when the nation was governed by a council of generals.”

Trying civilians in military courts is a violation of international law, including the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which Egypt ratified in 1984.

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