Mar 9, 2013 / 6:55 pm
An Egyptian court on Saturday confirmed the death sentences against 21 people for taking part in a deadly soccer riot but acquitted seven police officers for their alleged role in the violence. The verdict enraged fans in Cairo, prompting them to torch the soccer federation headquarters and a police club 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. While the violence has largely involved fans of rival soccer teams, the case has taken on political undercurrents because many blame the police for standing by during the violence last year.
Shortly after the verdict was announced Saturday, fans of Cairo's Al-Ahly club who had gathered in the thousands outside the team's headquarters in the centre of the Egyptian capital 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 used to extinguish the fires.
At least five people were injured in the protests, a Health Ministry official told the MENA state news agency.
The court's decision upheld the death sentences issued in late January to 21 people, most Port Said fans. The original verdict touched off violent riots in the Suez Canal city of Port Said that left some 40 people dead, most 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.
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