Egypt court confirms death sentences over football riot

Cairo (AFP) – A court Monday upheld death sentences against 10 people over rioting at a Port Said football stadium five years ago that killed 74 fans and sparked more violence in Egypt.

The February 2012 riot, the country’s deadliest sports-related violence, broke out when fans of home team Al-Masry and Cairo’s Al-Ahly clashed after a premier league match between the two clubs.

Ultras — hardcore football supporters usually blamed by the authorities for violence — were at the forefront of the 2011 uprising that unseated longtime president Hosni Mubarak.

The riot became one of the defining moments of the turbulence that followed Egypt’s uprising.

It sparked violent protests in Cairo where 16 people were killed in clashes with security forces and dozens of deaths in Port Said itself.

The Monday verdict of the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest appeals court, is final.

The date of the execution was not immediately announced.

The verdict was welcomed with relief by a group of 20 relatives of those who died in the 2012 riots, with many ululating outside the court as they held portraits of their dead kin.

“For five years my heart and my blood was boiling,” said Sareya Mohamed Ragab, whose 22-year-old son was one of the victims, adding that she can now “live again”.

Ahmed Mohamed, 59, struggled to hold back his tears as he clutched a portrait of his dead son Amr.

“I waited for justice for my son for six years, in torture and pain. Thank God the moment has come when I can say that justice has been done,” he said.

The court excluded an 11th defendant who remains at large after his death penalty was also confirmed in June 2015 by another court, but upheld prison sentences for around 40 other people.

The sentences include a five-year term for Port Said’s security chief at the time.

– Crowd ban –

After the riot, police detractors accused the authorities of having deliberately failed to intervene when the violence broke out to seek revenge for the active role Ultras played in the 2011 uprising.

One of the rallying cries at the 2011 revolution had been against alleged police abuse.

The overwhelming majority of those who killed in the 2012 riot were fans of Al-Ahly, one of Egypt’s biggest clubs which also enjoys overwhelming popularity in several Arab countries.

Al-Ahly have been crowned Egyptian champions a record 28 times, with arch-rivals Zamalek winning 12 times.

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