Mar 9, 2013 / 7:04 am
An Egyptian court on Saturday confirmed the death sentences against 21 people for taking part in a deadly soccer riot but acquitted seven police officials for their alleged role in the violence. Suspected fans enraged by the verdict torched the soccer federation headquarters and a police club in Cairo in protest.
The trial over the melee that killed 74 people after a soccer game in the city of Port Said in early 2012 has been the source of some of the worst unrest to hit Egypt in recent weeks. After the court sentenced the 21 people, most of them Port Said fans, to death in late January, violent riots erupted in the city that left some 40 people dead, most of them shot by police.
On Saturday, the court announced its verdict for the other 52 defendants in the case, sentencing 45 of them to prison, including two senior police officers who got 15 years terms each. Twenty-eight people were acquitted, including seven police officials.
As expected, the court's decision failed to defuse tensions over the case, which has taken on political undercurrents at a time when the entire nation is mired in political turmoil, a worsening economy and growing opposition to the rule of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
Shortly after the verdict was announced Saturday, suspected fans of Cairo's Al-Ahly club who had gathered in the thousands outside the team's headquarters in central Cairo went on a rampage, torching a police club nearby and storming Egypt's soccer federation headquarters before setting it ablaze. The twin fires sent plumes of thick black smoke billowing out over the Cairo skyline. Two army helicopters were being used to put out the fires.
At least five people were injured in the protests, a Health Ministry official told the MENA state news agency.
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