Update: Ultras protest in downtown Cairo; block metro

Update: Ultras protest in downtown Cairo; block metro

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Wed, 23/01/2013 - 16:45

Days before a court is set to rule in the case over last year’s football violence, Ultras Ahlawy protested at several landmarks in Cairo, starting at the stock exchange building and heading to Tahrir Square by mid-afternoon after blocking a metro train.

Dozens of the ultras — hardcore football fans who have played a significant role in revolutionary protests — blocked the Marg-Helwan metro line Wednesday afternoon by “sleeping” on the metro tracks, state news agency MENA reported.

The ultras lit flares at the Saad Zaghloul metro station and chanted against the Interior Ministry, calling for retribution for their fellow members who were killed during violence at a football match in Port Said in February.

The nearby Tahrir metro station became overcrowded with passengers, who asked officials to intervene. But security responded by saying that they were outnumbered by the protesters. Metro administration used loudspeakers to ask passengers to leave the station to prevent friction between the two sides.

Abdallah Fawzy, chairperson of the metro company, said that trains would be diverted due to the protest.

Earlier in the day, the ultras had protested outside the stock exchange headquarters in downtown Cairo. Prosecutor General Talaat Abdallah referred a report to the Public Prosecution, accusing some Ultras Ahlawy members of besieging the building.

The report, filed by Khaled al-Nashar, deputy stock exchange chairperson, said that besieging the stock exchange headquarters hampers the operation of a vital establishment and threatens national security and traders’ safety, potentially impacting the economy, MENA said.

But the stock exchange chairperson, Mohamed Omran, had said the exchange would not suspend trading because of the sit-in.

A criminal court is expected to issue a verdict in the case Saturday for 75 defendants charged with involvement in the rampage that left 72 dead following a match between Ahly and Masry football teams on 1 February.

The Ultras Ahlawy had held several protests outside government buildings and is encouraging people to attend the court ruling at the Police Academy in Cairo.

Omran had said he was surprised the football fans had chosen to protest in front of an establishment as vital as the stock market, adding that he trusts they will keep their protest peaceful.

Stock market officials have recently undertaken several measures to address similar situations, including implementing new tools that allow employees to work from other locations, Omran said in statements to the press.

The sit-in, however, could prevent some administrative work if employees are unable to enter the building, the chairman added.

Omran said he had contacted the relevant authorities to monitor the situation.

Edited translation from MENA