[QODLink]
Middle East

Death sentences over Egypt football massacre

At least 30 people killed in Port Said clashes after 21 fans sentenced to death over last year's deadly football riot.
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2013 17:06

Violence erupted in Port Said on Saturday after an Egyptian court handed down 21 death sentences in connection with the deadly riot last year at a football stadium in the Mediterranean city.

At least 74 people were killed in the riot on February 1, 2012, which began minutes after the final whistle in a game between al-Masry and the Cairo-based al-Ahly.

Al-Masry fans stormed the pitch after their team won, throwing stones, bottles and fireworks at al-Ahly supporters.

Witnesses said that police at the stadium did nothing to stop the violence, which set off days of violent protests in the capital Cairo.

The verdicts are not final; death sentences must be approved by Egypt's grand mufti, though that is largely a procedural formality. Defendants can also appeal their sentences, which could take years to carry out.

After the verdicts were handed down, the families of the defendants tried to storm the prison, and police used tear gas to disperse them.

There were reports of gunfire around the prison, with 30 people killed, including at least two police officers who were shot dead. Police have now sealed off Port Said, and the army has been deployed to "restore stability"; a curfew has been imposed in the area around the prison.

"It has been decided to deploy some units to work for calm and stability and the protection of public establishments," said General Ahmed Wasfi, in a statement carried by the official MENA news agency.

Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from the city, said that people in plainclothes were firing automatic weapons.

'Justice or blood'

Families of the victims inside the courtroom, meanwhile, reacted with joy and disbelief, cheering and holding pictures of their relatives. "The police are thugs," yelled relatives before the judge took the bench.

Hassan Mustafa, who had pinned a photo of his dead friend to his chest, said he was pleased with the verdict, but also wants "justice served for those who planned the killing."

The verdicts were also met with cheers by al-Ahly supporters who had gathered outside the football club in Cairo.

But the rulings will likely be seen as political - an effort to appease the "Ultras Ahlawy," die-hard supporters of al-Ahly, who threatened unrest in the capital if the rulings were not to their liking.

Al-Ahly supporters have blocked roads, bridges, and Cairo's metro system over the past few days. "Justice or blood," they warned in a statement on Facebook.

"There is nothing to say these people did anything, and we don't understand what this verdict is based on," one of the defendants' lawyers told the Associated Press by telephone. "[This was] a political decision to calm the public."

Dozens of other defendants, including security officials accused of failing to stop the violence, are expected to receive their verdicts on March 9.

All of this comes just hours after deadly protests that marked the second anniversary of the revolution that toppled longtime Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Ten people were killed on Friday in anti-government protests in Suez and Ismailia, and more than 470 people were wounded; Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian president, deployed the army in Suez to restore order.

Representatives of the National Salvation Front, the main opposition bloc in Egypt, held a press conference on Saturday to condemn the violence. The group demanded that Morsi appoint a new national unity government and form a committee to overhaul the recently-approved constitution, and threatened to boycott upcoming parliamentary elections unless its demands are met.

591

Source:
Al Jazeera
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
The author argues that in the new economy, it's people, not skills or majors, that have lost value.
Colleagues of detained Al Jazeera journalists press demands for their release, 100 days after their arrest in Egypt.
Mehdi Hasan discusses online freedoms and the potential of the web with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
A tight race seems likely as 814 million voters elect leaders in world's largest democracy next week.
Featured
Activists say 'Honor Diaries' documentary exploits gender-based violence to further an anti-Islamic agenda.
As Syria's civil war escalates along the Turkish border, many in Turkey are questioning the country's involvement.
Treatment for autism in the region has progressed, but lack of awareness and support services remains a challenge.
The past isn't far away for a people exiled from Crimea by Russia and the decades it took to get home.
New report highlights plight of domestic helpers in the United Kingdom, with critics comparing it to kefala system.
join our mailing list