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Egypt arrests Ultras Ahlawy fans during football match against Moroccan team

Dozens of fans arrested during and after Saturday's match against Raja Casablanca in Cairo, after some were heard chanting against 'informers'
Al-Ahly supporters at the CAF Champions League quarter-final match against Raja Casablanca at Cairo International Stadium, 22 April 2023 (AFP)

Egyptian authorities have arrested at least 16 supporters of Al-Ahly Sporting Club during a football match in Cairo, accusing them of belonging to a banned fan group.

The fans were arrested inside Cairo International Stadium on Saturday, during Al-Ahly's quarter-final football match against Morocco's Raja Casablanca in the CAF Champions League. There are reports of further arrests taking place in the days following. 

Although the supporters were initially released on bail from a police station in Nasr City, Egypt's Supreme State Security Prosecution issued an arrest decision for 15 days against 16 fans on Thursday.

The Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR) said in a statement that each fan was released on bail of 500 Egyptian pounds ($16), paid by relatives. The fans faced charges of belonging to Ultras Ahlawy, a group that was outlawed in 2015.

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EFHR said that prior to their arrest, the fans chanted against police "informers" during the match, accusing them of collaborating with the authorities. They were taken to a police station in Nasr City in Cairo, where charges were filed.

The number of people detained in connection with Saturday's game remains unconfirmed, however. Mohammed Rashwan, an Egyptian lawyer who defended some of the detainees, told Mada Masr news site that almost 18 people were arrested on Saturday. But within a short time of their being released on bail on Sunday, they were rounded up again to face an investigation.

Meanwhile, EFHR said on Friday that 20 people were arrested, and that the figure could reach 24. The group said the Egyptian prosecution refused to allow lawyers to attend questioning sessions.

Rashwan said that hundreds of fans have started to boycott football matches following the arrests.

"Until yesterday evening, there were still fans being arrested from their home, so the numbers are rising and we won't be able to confirm the figure until next week," he told Mada Masr.

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He also said in a post on Facebook that the Egyptian authorities are sending a firm message that they would not allow Ultras Ahlawy groups back inside stadiums.

In 2018, Egyptian football fans were allowed back to watch league matches after a six-year ban, except Ultras Ahlawy.

Fans had been barred from attending league matches since clashes in Port Said City led to the death of 74 Al-Ahly fans in February 2012. 

Founded in 2007, the ultras have attracted nearly two million fans, mainly supporting the Ahly and Zamalek clubs in Cairo, whose participation was said to be instrumental in the Arab Spring protests that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Due to their involvement in protests after the Arab Spring, the ultras have been targets of a crackdown that saw their activity criminalised and their members jailed on terror-related charges.

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