CAIRO: At least 37 people were killed and more than 700 injured in two days of riots in Port Said sparked by Saturday’s decision of a Cairo court to order 21 death sentences at the end of the football disaster trial writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Altogether 73 people were on trial, accused over the Al-Masry tragedy in which some 72 Al-Ahly fans died when violence erupted at the end of an Egyptian league game on February 1 last year. The other 52 will be sentenced on March 9.
The conclusion of the trial, held at the Cairo Police Academy, was always certain to inflame further the already-tense situation in the country after the second anniversary of the revolution which overthrew long-time dictatorial President Hosni Mubarak. Nine deaths had already reported in street protests yesterday/Friday over the governmental direction being taken by President Morsi.
At the time of the match it was considered that a plot targeting Al-Ahly’s highly-politicised ultras exploded out of control, resulting in so many deaths and thousands of injuries.
The fall-out from verdicts will raise doubts over whether the league championship, suspended for a year, will resume action after all as planned next Saturday (February 2).
In Cairo the verdict prompted celebrations with fireworks and chanting from the thousands of Al Ahly ultras who had assembled at the club’s centre in the Zamalek distract. Crowds chanted: “Dogs of the interior ministry killed my son,” and: “Vengeance, vengeance for the mothers of the martyrs.”
But the scene was very different around the General Prison in Port Said where the accused had been held. The 73 included nine security officials, three Masry football club officials and a number of fans.
The Interior Ministry had ordered that the defendants remain in prison and should not be transferred to Cairo to hear the verdicts to as to reduce the risks of trouble but that hope proved in vain after hundreds of relatives and supporters of the accused staged a counter protest.
Two police officers and 30 civilians so far have been reported killed and 300 injured. Abdel-Rahman Farah, head of Port Said hospitals, told local media: “There are many more severely wounded which means that the death toll can rise within the coming hours.”
Security forces fired tear gas to disperse the angry crowd, mainly family members, trying to break into the prison with rocks and firearms.
Other protesters looted and torched police premises and a media station minibus. Other protesters blocked the Ismailiya/Port Said highway while trains had to be halted at Ismailiya, the major station before the Suez Canal port.
Some 32 people, including two policemen, were killed with around 300 injured.
The funerals of those killed on Saturday took place Sunday amid further trouble which saw five more people killed and 436 injured after mourners at the Al-Mariam Mosque were hit by heavy tear gas shelling from the direction of the nearby army club.
The Ministry of Interior has denied using tear gas at the funeral via a message on its official Facebook page. It claimed several mourners on the funeral march threw Molotov cocktails and shot at police stations.
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