A trial of 61 men accused of involvement in an Egyptian soccer stampede that left 74 dead was suspended briefly on Tuesday after dozens of defendants began shouting as the prosecutor read out charges.
Judge Abdel Maguid Mahmoud walked out as the defendants jumped on benches in the court cage and waved their fists at the bench. The proceedings resumed a short time later.
“We either get our rights or we die,” the defendants yelled, denying any role in the stadium stampede in Port Said on Feb. 1 that was the deadliest sporting tragedy in Egyptian history.
Many of those killed were crushed when panicked fans tried to escape from the stadium after a post-match pitch invasion.
The stampede deepened the sense of national chaos in Egypt that set in after widespread protests toppled long-serving President Hosni Mubarak last year.
Fans of the visiting team, al-Ahly, accused the Interior Ministry of deliberately causing the disaster in revenge for their role in toppling Mubarak and their continued hostility to an unreformed police force.
A parliamentary inquiry blamed fans and shoddy policing for the deaths and the head of state security in Port Said was fired along with the board of the Egyptian Football Association.
“The accused used different types of sharp weapons, explosives and stones and waited for the fans in Port Said stadium to arrive to watch the match between Egypt’s al-Ahly vs Port Said clubs,” the general prosecutor told the court, according to Reuters.
Hundreds of protesters outside demanded justice for the victims. Some wore black shirts imprinted with the words: “When I stop cheering, I will surely be dead.”
“We only want the justice of God,” said Ahmed Khater, 55, whose son died in the stadium.