Egypt riots: 27 die after court sentences 21 to death for football violence which killed 74 fans (PHOTOS & VIDEO)
An Egyptian court today sentenced 21 people to death after they were involved in a riot following a football match in which 74 people were killed.
The controversial verdict prompted further bloodshed, as 27 people were killed during reactionary riots outside the Mediterranean city of Port Said’s main jail today.
The unrest is part of a wave of violence that has swept Egypt, leaving a total of 38 people dead in two days.
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Today, Britain called for ‘maximum restraint’ and strongly condemned the violence.
On Friday, 11 people were killed in clashes between police and protesters who were marking the second anniversary of the uprising that overthrew longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.
President Mohammed Morsi canceled a scheduled trip to Ethiopia Saturday and instead met for the first time with top generals as part of the newly formed National Defense Council.
The violence in Port Said followed the court decision when angry relatives of those sentenced tried to storm the prison to free the defendants, shooting dead two police officers, according to reports.
Egyptian security officials said the military had been deployed to the city, where most of those sentenced are from, as police became embroiled in violent clashes with protestors.
Officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at those demonstrating, who feel aggrieved that they are shouldering the blame for the riots.
The violence during the match last year was the world’s worst football related disaster in 15 years.
Fans of Al-Ahly, whose stands were attacked by rival club Al-Masry in the Mediterranean city of Port Said, had promised more violence if the accused did not receive death sentences.
Families of the those killed during the disorder wailed in the courtroom as the judge gave the sentence, while some shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ – Arabic for God is great
One man fainted, while others wailed and cried in disbelief as they carried pictures of the young men killed in the soccer riot.
The judge said in his statement, read live on state TV, that he would announce the verdict for the remaining 52 defendants at a later date.
While many of those on trial included alleged football hooligans, nine security officials also face charges.
The death sentences will be sent to a top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, for approval, as is customary in Egypt.
Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said the violence which has been seen in the past two days ‘can have no place in a truly democratic Egypt’.
‘I am deeply concerned by reports of violent clashes resulting in a number of deaths and injuries, following demonstrations to mark the second anniversary of the 25 January revolution and the verdict in the Port Said court case today,’ he said.
‘This cannot help the process of dialogue which we encourage as vital for Egypt today, and we must condemn the violence in the strongest terms.
It is not clear what kind of evidence, if any, was presented to the court to back up claims that the attack had been orchestrated by regime officials.
All of the defendants – who were not present in the courtroom today for security reasons – have the right to appeal against the verdict.
The clashes occurred during a match between Port Said’s Al-Masry and Cairo’s Al-Ahly, the country’s most successful club, on February 1 last year.
The final whistle prompted more than 13,000 home fans, armed with knives, iron bars and machetes, to storm the pitch and attack rival Al-Ahly players and their 1,200 supporters.
Authorities shut off the stadium lights after the game, plunging it into darkness.
In the exit corridor, the fleeing crowd pressed against a chained gate until it broke open. Many were crushed under the crowd of people trying to flee.
In the days leading up to the verdict, Al-Ahly fans warned of bloodshed and ‘retribution’ if death sentences were not handed down.
Hundreds of Al-Ahly fans gathered outside the Cairo sports club in anticipation of the verdict, chanting against the police and the government.
While there has long been bad blood between the two rival teams, many blamed police for failing to perform usual searches for weapons at the stadium.
The Ultras, are among Egypt’s rowdiest and are proud of their hatred for the police, who were the backbone of Mubarak’s authoritarian rule.
The Ultras from Egypt’s sports clubs were engaged in deadly clashes with police near the Interior Ministry headquarters in Cairo that killed 42 people less than three months before the soccer melee in Port Said.
Read more: Dailymail