TWENTY-TWO PEOPLE were killed in Port Said today after 21 Egyptian football fans and club members were sentenced to death over a deadly post-match riot last year in the canal city.
The clashes erupted after a Cairo court handed down the death sentences over the football riot last February in which 74 people were killed, and came a day after violence swept Egypt on the second anniversary of its uprising.
As news of the verdict emerged, relatives of those condemned tried to storm the prison in Port Said where they are being held, leading to fierce clashes with security forces.
Unidentified assailants used automatic weapons against police who responded with tear gas, witnesses said.
Two police stations in Port Said were stormed, an AFP correspondent said, and heavy gunfire could be heard in the Al-Manakh neighbourhood.
Ambulances ferried the injured to hospitals all shops and businesses closed for the day as protesters set tyres alight and mosques urged worshippers to donate blood.
Troops are being sent to Port Said, a senior army officer said.
“It has been decided to deploy some units to work for calm and stability and the protection of public establishments,” General Ahmed Wasfi said in a statement carried by the official MENA news agency.
The clashes have left 22 people dead and 200 injured, a health ministry statement said.
Two policemen were among those killed, the interior ministry said in a separate statement, adding that there were “many critical injuries among police forces.”
Fans of Al-Ahly celebrate a court verdict that returned 21 death penalties in last years soccer violence, inside the club premises in Cairo. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Egypt’s opposition threatened to boycott upcoming parliamentary polls if President Mohamed Morsi – facing his worst crisis since coming to power in June – does not find a “comprehensive solution” to the unrest gripping the country.
The National Salvation Front, the main coalition of parties and movements opposing the ruling Islamists, called for among other things the creation of a “national salvation” government, otherwise it will “not participate in the next parliamentary elections.”
Last February’s riots between fans of Port Said home side Al-Masry and Cairo’s Al-Ahly also sparked days of violent protests in Cairo, in which another 16 people were killed.
In the capital, both inside and outside the court, there were explosions of joy at the verdict on Saturday. Women ululated, relatives hugged and shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest).
One man who lost his son in Port Said wept outside the court, telling AFP: “I am satisfied with the verdict.”
Another, Hassan Mustafa, had pinned a picture of his dead friend to his chest and said he was pleased, but wanted “justice served for those who planned the killing.”
Many Egyptians believe the violence was orchestrated either by the police or by supporters of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
The Cairo court has handed its verdict to Egypt’s top cleric for his final opinion, as is customary, and set March 9 for delivering verdicts on another 52 defendants, including police officers.
The sentence is subject to appeal, judicial sources said.
- AFP, 2013