Boiling Egypt: 22 die in riots after court sentences 21 to death for football violence which killed 74 fans (PHOTOS)
- Families of those sentenced tried to storm jail in Port Said to free prisoners
- More than 200 people were also injured, state television reported
- Violence broke out during match between Al-Masry and Al-Ahly last February
- The riot in Port Said was the worst football-related violence in 15 years
- Another 52 defendants are due to be sentenced at a later date
- Former supporters of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak have been blamed for instigating riot
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 22 people were killed during reactionary riots outside the Mediterranean city of Port Said’s main jail today.
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.
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Decision: Egyptian fans of Al-Ahly club, one of the clubs involved in the violence last year, celebrate as 21 people were sentenced to death for their part in the violence
Unrest: Eight people have died n riots following the decision, as Egyptian security officials said the military had been deployed to Port Said to deal with unrest
Tragic: A judge has sentenced 21 people to death following the riot between fans of Port Said’s Al-Masry and Cairo’s Al-Ahly, in February last year
Support: Relatives of those killed in the violence last February cheer the decision in a court room in Cairo on
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.
The death sentences will be sent to a top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, for approval, as is customary in Egypt.
Many violent soccer fans, known as Ultras, have taken a leading role in protests over the past two years.
Both Al-Ahly Ultras and Al-Masry Ultras widely believe that ex-members of the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak helped instigate the attack.
Relief: A man, wearing a picture of his relative, reacts after the verdict. Family members shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ – Arabic for God is great
Sentencing: The judge will sentence a further 52 people, charged in connection with the riots, in March
Desperation: Thousands of desperate supporters trying to board a train after fleeing from the stadium
The police are also accused of gross negligence over their handling of the incident.
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.
Running for cover: Players involved in a tie between Al-Masry and Al-Ahly had to flee Port Said Stadium during the riots which claimed 74 lives
Revenge: Fans of al-Ahly had promised more violence if the accused did not receive death sentences
Chaos: Egyptian football fans rush to the pitch during the riots. Another 52 people are awaiting sentencing
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.
Attack: 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