Members of the Ultras White Knights face various terror-related charges, after they were arrested during clashes with the police following protests by the pro-Zamalek fans.
A Cairo prosecutor last weekend ordered the remanding in prison for 15 days of 36 members of the Ultras White Knights (UWK), the militant, street battle-hardened support group of storied Cairo club Al Zamalek SC on charges of breaking Egypt’s draconic anti-protest law, belonging to a group opposed to the law and the constitution, creating chaos, damaging public and private property, interrupting traffic and illegal possession of firearms. Police denied UWK assertions that the parents of some of their members had been detained to force their children to surrender themselves.
The fans were detained after clashing with police during a protest against the arrest of UWK members on charges of having attempted to assassinate club president Mortada Mansour in an incident on August 17 in which two people accompanying him as he left Zamalek’s premises were injured by gunshots. Mr. Mortada had earlier banned UWK members from the club premises. UWK has denied the allegation.
Tension between Mr. Mortada and the fans erupted because of the club president’s support for a more than two-year old ban on spectators attending soccer matches. The ban was imposed in February 2012 after 74 supporters of Zamalek arch rival Al Ahli SC were killed in a soccer brawl in Port Said that many believe that the military and security forces had a hand. The sentencing last year in which 21 supporters of Port Said’s Al Masri SC were sentenced to death for their part in the incident sparked a popular revolt in cities along the Suez Canal and mass protests in Cairo.
The upcoming retrial of the case is likely to become another flashpoint. A further flashpoint could emerge on September 10 during the African Cup of Nations qualifier between Egypt and Tunisia after the Egyptian interior ministry decided that the spectator ban would be lifted for that one game.
UWK, which played a key role in the toppling of Mr. Mubarak and subsequent protests against the military, has demanded Mr. Mortada’s resignation. A recent UWK song accused Mr. Mortada of being a stooge of the regime of general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. In a blowback to the walk-up to Mr. Mubarak’s downfall and the subsequent anti-military protests, UWK said last week on its Facebook page: “The truth is, we took the streets because we cannot be quiet in the face of injustice.”