Egypt Court Sentences 21 To Death For Stadium Riots, Clashes Erupt

An Egyptian court sentenced 21 people to death over their involvement in the Port Said soccer stadium disaster last year.

The ruling may help reduce the prospects of additional clashes in the streets. Both soccer fans and the families of 74 people killed in the riots threatened more violence should the punishments not be enough for them.

The ruling on Saturday also followed at least nine deaths on Friday during rallies and protests held nationwide to mark the anniversary of Egypt’s revolution, notes Reuters.

The judge in the case, Sobhy Abdel Maguid, read a list of names of those “referred to the Mufti.” The phrase means a death verdict, though all such sentences must be reviewed by Egypt’s top religious authority.

The incident in question occurred on February 1, 2012. Panicked crowds tried to escape from the stadium after the end of a match between Cairo’s Al Ahly and al-Masry, the local team. The rush took place after supporters of al-Masry invaded the pitch following the game.

Several of the spectators were crushed, while others were thrown or fell from the terraces, according to witnesses. Fans from both sides also bashed each other with rocks and chairs. The incident left 74 people dead and more than 1,000 injured. CNN notes that the ruling sparked clashes between security forces and the relatives of those who were convicted.

Eight people were killed in the clashed, including two police officers, according to the nation’s health ministry. Nile TV reported, “There is a state of anger on the streets of Port Said, and the security forces are on high alert.”

Egypt’s highest religious authority will return his opinion on the death sentences to the court on March 9. The judge added that an additional 54 defendants in the case will be sentenced on that day.

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