Egypt court sentences 11 to death in soccer stadium case

Egypt court sentences 11 to death in soccer stadium case
A policeman stands guard in front of defendants in a cage in a courtroom in Cairo. The case involved deadly soccer stadium violence in Port Said in 2012, which left more than 70 fans dead.
PHOTO: Reuters

CAIRO - An Egyptian court sentenced 11 men to death on Tuesday for their part in the country's worst violence at a football stadium, which killed more than 70 fans and injured at least 1,000 in 2012.

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.

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. Twenty-one people were found innocent. The verdicts can be appealed.

The judge had referred the death sentence in April to Egypt's Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, the country's most senior religious authority, in a step required by law for convictions in capital cases. The mufti's opinion is not binding and not made public.

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

Football 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 football 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.

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