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Football violence verdict sparks riot in Egypt

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21 sentenced to death over last year's Port Said incident

Celebrations at the al-Ahly football club in Cairo on Saturday following the verdict over last year's violence that killed 74 of the club's fans. —Photo: AP
Celebrations at the al-Ahly football club in Cairo on Saturday following the verdict over last year's violence that killed 74 of the club's fans. —Photo: AP

An Egyptian court sentenced 21 people to death on Saturday on charges related to the February 1, 2012 football violence in Port Said that killed 74 fans of the Cairo-based al-Ahly team.

The verdict touched off an attempted jailbreak and a riot that killed 16 in the Mediterranean port city that is home to most of the defendants. Defendants’ lawyers said all those sentenced were fans of the Port Said team, al-Masry. The judge said in his statement read live on state TV that he would announce the verdict for the remaining 52 defendants on March 9.

Immediately after the verdict, two police were shot dead outside Port Said’s main prison when angry relatives tried to storm the facility to free the defendants.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, as well as live rounds, at the crowd outside the prison, killing 14, security officials said. Hundreds were wounded.

Security officials said the military was being deployed to Port Said — the second such deployment in less than 24 hours.

The first came after deadly clashes between police and demonstrators on Friday, the second anniversary of the uprising that overthrew longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.

The military was also deployed overnight in the city of Suez after eight people died in clashes between security forces and protesters opposed to President Mohamed Morsy. Another protester was killed in Ismailiya, and security officials told the state news agency MENA that two policemen were killed in Friday’s protests, bringing the death toll on the second anniversary of Egypt’s uprising to 11.

Among those on trial for the soccer violence are nine security officials, but none were handed sentences on Saturday, lawyers and security officials say.

Diehard soccer fans from both teams, known as Ultras, hold the police at least partially responsible for the Port Said deaths and criticise Mr, Morsy for doing little to reform the force.

Mr. Morsy cancelled a scheduled trip to Ethiopia on Saturday and instead met for the first time with top generals as part of the newly-formed National Defence Council. — AP


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