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Deadly Egypt riots follow football verdicts

At least one person killed as football fans protest over sentences handed down over riots at Port Said match last year.
Last Modified: 09 Mar 2013 17:50

At least one person has been killed as fans of rival football teams take to the streets in Egypt, angered by verdicts over last year's deadly stadium riots in Port Said.

Fans of the Cairo club Al-Ahly, angered by the acquittal of seven police officers, set fire to a police officers' club and the football federation's headquarters in the capital.

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Hundreds of people also took to the streets in Port Said to protest against a Cairo court's upholding of the death sentences of 21 fans accused of sparking the riots that left 74 people - most of them Al-Ahly supporters - dead.

The death sentences, passed on January 28, have been a flashpoint for protests across the country.

The football stadium deaths occurred in February 2012 at the end of a match between Al-Ahly and local side Al-Masry.

Spectators were crushed when panicked crowds tried to escape from the stadium after a pitch invasion by supporters of Al-Masry.

Two senior policemen - the former head of police security General Essam Samak and Brigadier General Mohammed Saaed - were sentenced to 15 years in prison. Saaed had the keys to the stadium gates, which were locked at the time of the riot.

Witnesses have said that police deployed at the stadium were passively staying on the sidelines and did not interfere to stop the violence.

Bridge blocked

Thousands of Al-Ahly fans gathered at their club in Cairo to hear the verdicts being announced on live television.

Naval units were deployed to secure the Suez canal after protesters from Port Said headed there [Reuters]

Reacting to the acquittals of the seven policemen, dozens of fans headed to the police building closest to their stadium - the officers' club.

Another crowd set the headquarters of the Egyptian Football Federation ablaze. Tharwat Sueilam, the director of the federation, told Al Jazeera that there were no injuries..

Al-Ahly supporters also briefly blocked the capital's October Bridge, one of the most vital bridges in the city.

Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from Cairo, said the situation had calmed down after senior fans urged those gathered at the club to accept the verdicts and go home.

Most of those condemned to death were fans of Port Said's Al-Masry. In the city, several hundred people, many of them relatives of the defendants, gathered outside the local government offices to vent their anger over the verdicts.

Some protesters headed to the Suez canal, apparently in a bid to block movement of ships, but were stopped by the army.

Witnesses said protesters untied speedboats used to supply shipping, hoping the boats would drift into the waterway and disrupt passing vessels.

The January verdicts led to protests in the city that left about 40 people dead, most of them shot by police.

Many residents of Port Said, have seen the trial as unjust and politicised.

Football fans in the city say they feel the authorities were biased in favour of Al-Ahly, Egypt's most powerful club.

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Source:
Al Jazeera And Agencies
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