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More than 200 football fans referred to military prosecution in Egypt

MEMO's week in pictures
Al-Zamalek football club fans light flares and shout slogans to mark the anniversary of the killing of 22 fans outside an air defence stadium [Anadolu Agency]

Egypt's public prosecutors referred 235 football fans to military prosecution on charges that include violence and damage of public property in the coastal city of Alexandria, the defendants' lawyer told journalists on Thursday.

The Ultras White Knights members, who are fans of the Zamalek football team, were arrested on 9 July following a match that the team played against a Libyan team in the Borg Al-Arab stadium. Zamalek's fans were angered by the match's result, and were arrested in the area where the stadium is located.

Public prosecutors decided to refer the defendants to military prosecution on the grounds that the stadium is a military property, the defendants' lawyer, Mohammed Nassef said.

An article in the Egyptian constitution allows for the trial of civilians before military courts in cases that include "assault against military facilities, military barracks, or whatever falls under their authority."

Read: Rights group says 107 Egyptian were killed by police forces

The controversial article was added to the 2014 version of the constitution, which was approved in a popular referendum less than six months after a military coup ousted Mohamed Morsi as president.

The charges laid by prosecutors against the young football fans include using "terror" to achieve their objectives, preventing state institutions from carrying out their duties and possessing fireworks. The defendants deny all the accusations laid against them.

Fans of the Zamalek and Ahly football teams are known for playing a key role in the mass protests that ousted Hosni Mubarak as president in the January 2011 Revolution. They have had repeated tensions with Egyptian authorities since.

In February 2015, 22 Zamalek fans were killed after police fired teargas and shotgun pellets to disperse them while they were entering a military-owned football stadium in Cairo.

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