Egypt braced for more violence after court confirms death sentences for Port Said footballer rioters

 

An Egyptian court today confirmed death sentences against 21 people for their role in a deadly 2012 football riot that killed more than 70 people in the city of Port Said.

The court also sentenced the city's former security chief, Maj. Gen. Essam Samak, to 15 years in prison. Samak was the most senior of nine security officials tried for their part in the riot. Another police official, a colonel, was also sentenced to 15 years in prison. The other seven were acquitted.

Judge Sobhi Abdel-Maguid, who read out the verdict at a Cairo courthouse, sentenced five more defendants to life in prison and eight others — besides Samak and the police colonel — to 15 years in jail. Six defendants received 10-year jail terms, two more got five years and a single defendant received a 12-month sentence. A total of 28 people were acquitted.

The trial has been the source of some of the worst unrest in recent weeks to hit Egypt, which is already grappling with mass political protests and a crumbling economy. After the 21 people — most of them fans of Port Said's Al-Masry club — were first sentenced to death on 28 January, violent riots erupted in the city that left some 40 people dead, most of them shot by police.

Many residents of Port Said, which is located on the Mediterranean at the northern tip of the Suez Canal, have seen the trial as unjust and politicized, and soccer fans in the city have felt that authorities were biased in favor of Al-Ahly, Egypt's most powerful club.

The bloodshed unleashed by the verdict in January had many in Egypt bracing for the possibility of more violence following today's sentencing, although both Port Said and Cairo were calm immediately following the verdict, which was broadcast live on Egyptian TV.

The February 2012 riot followed a league match between Al-Masry and Cairo's Al-Ahly club, with Port Said supporters setting upon the visiting fans after the final whistle. The deadly melee is Egypt's worst soccer disaster.

Today, thousands of Al-Ahly fans who had gathered outside the club's headquarters in Cairo welcomed the verdict, but their response was muted compared to the wild celebrations following the January death sentences.

In Port Said, a city that has for weeks been in open rebellion against the government of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, several hundred people, many of them relatives of the defendants, gathered outside the local government offices to vent their anger.

Port Said has been the centre of the heaviest violence in the latest wave of unrest, which began on 25 January, when hundreds of thousands across the country marked the second anniversary of the start of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak's regime two years ago.

Cairo, the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, and several cities in the Nile Delta north of the capital have all been swept up in the unrest as well.

During clashes between police and protesters the past week that killed eight people, Port Said also saw dangerous frictions between police and the military. Army troops trying to break up the clashes at one point fired over the heads of police forces, which had been shooting tear gas in their direction.

At least some of the anger city residents feel for the police was in part defused yesteryday when police handed over security control in the city to the military.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Proust as Captain Laure Berthaud in 'Spiral'
tvReview: Gritty, engaging and well-acted - it’s a wonder France’s biggest TV export isn’t broadcast on a more mainstream channel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Carmichael in still from Madam Bovary trailer
film
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links