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Egypt court sentences 11 to death over soccer violence

Many of the dead were crushed when panicked fans tried to escape from the Port Said stadium after a post-match pitch invasion by supporters of the local side al-Masry. Others fell or were thrown from terraces, witnesses said at the time. More than 1,000 were injured.

The court, whose session was televised live, sentenced one of the men to death in absentia. Ten men got 15 years in jail, 14 were sentenced to 10 years, and 15 men received a five-year sentence. The charges included murder and attempted murder.

Twenty-one people were found innocent. The verdicts can be appealed. Among those who received a five-year sentence was the former Port Said police chief.

The judge had referred the death sentence in April to Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, the country’s most senior religious authority, in a step required by law for convictions in capital cases.

Judge Mohammed al-Saeed told Reuters that the Mufti approved of the 11 defendants’ death sentences.

Yasser Sayed Ahmed, a lawyer for the family of one of the victims hailed the ruling as “extremely fair and satisfactory”.

Soccer matches are often a flashpoint for violence in Egypt. The teams in the Port Said incident – al-Masry and Cairo’s al-Ahli – are longtime rivals. Witnesses said the rioting broke out after Cairo fans unfurled banners insulting the local team, which had won the match 3-1.

Since then Egypt has curbed the number of people allowed to attend and supporters have often tried to storm stadiums they are banned from entering.

In February, at least 22 people were killed outside an Egyptian soccer stadium when security forces barred fans from entering, the public prosecutor’s office said at the time.

Most of the casualties suffocated when the crowd stampeded after police used tear gas to clear the fans trying to force their way into a league match between two Cairo clubs, Zamalek and Enppi, doctors and witnesses said.

The “Ultras” soccer fan clubs were outlawed in May. Relations between the Ultras and security forces have been tense for the past four years after the fans played a key role in the 18 days of street protests that toppled veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Separately a military court sentenced 36 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to 25 years in jail in absentia, 21 others received sentences of between 7 to 15 years over charges of storming a police station in Assyut and killing army and police forces, security sources said.

The events took place in 2013 after the army overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi following mass protests against his rule.



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