By AYA BATRAWY, Associated Press
January 27, 2013
CAIRO — Angry relatives and residents rampaged through an Egyptian port city Saturday in rioting that killed at least 27 people after a judge sentenced nearly two dozen soccer fans to death for involvement in deadly violence after a game last year.
The unrest was the latest in a bout of violence that has left a total of 38 people dead in two days, including 11 killed in clashes between police and protesters marking Friday's second anniversary of the uprising that overthrew longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.
President Mohammed Morsi canceled a trip to Ethiopia Saturday and instead met with top generals as part of the newly formed National Defense Council.
The violence in Port Said erupted after a judge sentenced 21 people to death in connection with the Feb. 1 soccer melee that killed 74 fans of the Cairo-based Al-Ahly team. Executions in Egypt are usually carried out by hanging.
All the defendants – who were not present in the courtroom Saturday for security reasons – can appeal the verdict.
Judge Sobhi Abdel-Maguid did not give his reasoning when he read out the verdicts for 21 out of the 73 defendants Saturday. The verdict for the remaining 52 defendants, including nine security officials, is scheduled to be delivered March 9. Some have been charged with murder and others with assisting the attackers.
Die-hard soccer fans from both teams, known as Ultras, hold the police at least partially responsible, saying officers at the game did nothing to stop the bloodshed. They also criticize Morsi for doing little to reform the police force or the judiciary since he took office in July.
The opposition says Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected and civilian president, and his Muslim Brotherhood allies have failed to restore stability amid continued political turmoil and crime.
In a statement Saturday, the main opposition National Salvation Front said it holds Morsi responsible for the excessive use of force by the security forces against protesters.
After the verdict was read live on state TV, two policemen were shot dead outside Port Said's main prison when angry relatives tried to storm the facility to free the defendants. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, as well as live rounds, at the crowd outside the prison.
Also, Egyptian military forces were sent into the canal city of Suez after eight people died in Friday's clashes between security forces and protesters opposed to the new president and the Brotherhood.