Marches in Egypt's Port Said as verdict looms

Security tightened in Suez Canal city and Cairo as protests intensify ahead of Saturday's verdict in football riot case.

    Thousands of Egyptians have marched on the streets of the Suez Canal city of Port Said in protest at the deaths of local people in clashes with police and ahead of a court decision in a contentious football riot case.

    The protests on Friday were the latest outbreak of unrest that has flared in Port Said since January over death sentences given to 21 local people in connection with a stadium riot one year ago in which more than 70 people died.

    The football stadium deaths occurred in February last year at the end of a match between Cairo's Al Ahly and al-Masry, the local side, and have been a flashpoint for protests across Egypt.

    Spectators were crushed when panicked crowds tried to escape from the stadium after a pitch invasion by supporters of al-Masry. Others fell or were thrown from terraces.

    The confirmation of the sentences of those accused of involvement in the disaster is expected on Saturday in Cairo, and could provoke more violence in Port Said and the capital.

    A protester in Port Said died of a bullet wound to the head on Friday which he sustained in clashes with police earlier in the week, a medical source said. Another protester died during the night after violence on Thursday.

    Protesters holding flags chanted "With our blood we will redeem you, Port Said!" and "The people want to bring down the regime", the signature chant of the demonstrators who ended Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule in 2011.

    Anti-Morsi slogans

    Egypt's revolution eventually installed an elected Islamist-led government that is still struggling to assert its authority, restore order and revive the economy.

    The protesters also called for the departure of police forces and shouted slogans against President Mohamed Morsi.

    At least eight people have been killed in this week's protests in the city, including three policemen.

    The army formed a security cordon around the central security directorate building in Port Said and local government
    offices. The officers are there to protect the area and stop bloodshed but not to police the people, Major General Ahmed Wasif said.

    Egypt's security situation has deteriorated and police officers have been striking across the country, saying they do
    not have enough weapons and officers to deal with the unrest.

    On Friday, the interior minister replaced Maged Nouh, the powerful head of country's central security forces, with Ashraf Abdullah, the state news agency MENA said without giving a reason.

    Authorities tightened security in Port Said and in Cairo before the final court ruling and will deploy 2,000 police
    around the police academy in Cairo, where the football stadium hearing will be held, MENA reported, citing a source in the interior ministry.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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