Egypt court sentences 21 to death for stadium disaster
In courtroom, families of those killed in 2011 soccer melee between Port Said's Al-Masry fans and Cairo's Al-Ahly fans raise their hands in the air shouting 'Allahu Akbar'; at least 22 killed in violence that erupts outside prison where defendants' held
An Egyptian court sentenced to death on Saturday 21 people accused of involvement in the Port Said soccer stadium disaster in which 74 people were killed last year, the judge said.
The judge read out a list of 21 names who had been "referred to the Mufti", a phrase used to denote a death verdict as all such sentences must reviewed by the Egypt's top religious authority.
A security source reported that two policemen were shot dead outside a prison in Port Said shorty after the sentencing. Another source said at least 22 people, including the two police officers, were killed in clashes that erupted in Port Said. More than 200 people were injured, medical sources said.
Violence in Port Said after sentencing (Photo: AFP)
Protesters had gathered at the prison where many of the defendants in the soccer case were held and state media had earlier reported gunshots outside the jail. State television said that just minutes after the court verdict, relatives of the defendants tried to storm the prison where they were being held.
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The court was ruling in the case of 73 people charged with involvement in the Feb. 1, 2012 disaster. The verdicts for others in the case will be announced in March 9.
Watch: Egyptian judge reads out names of those sentenced to death
In the courtroom, on the outskirts of Cairo, families of the deceased wailed in disbelief and raised their hands in the air shouting "Allahu Akbar", Arabic for God is great.
Victims' relatives in court (Photo: AFP)
The judge said in his statement read live on state TV that he would announce the verdict for the remaining 52 defendants on March 9.
Among those on trial are nine security officials. The soccer melee on Feb. 1, 2011 between Port Said's Al-Masry fans and Cairo's Al-Ahly fans was the world's deadliest soccer violence in 15 years.
Spectators were crushed when panicked crowds tried to escape from the stadium after a post-match pitch invasion by supporters of al-Masry. Others fell or were thrown from terraces, witnesses said.
'We'll never forget you.' Al Ahly banner reads (Photo: AFP)
Many of those who died were supporters of Al Ahly.
Thousands of Al-Ahly fans gathered outside the soccer club's offices in Cairo before the verdict was read and threatened to take violent action in case those responsible for their friends' death would not be punished.
The supporters cheered in response to the sentences.
Al-Jazeera reported that Al-Ahly supporters have blocked roads, bridges, and Cairo's metro system over the past few days. "Justice or blood," they warned in a statement on Facebook.
As is customary in Egypt, the death sentences will be sent to a top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, for approval.
The ruling followed nine deaths during protests nationwide on Friday and early on Saturday, held to mark two years since Egypt's revolution forced strongman Hosni Mubarak from power and to accuse President Mohamed Morsi and his Islamist allies of reimposing authoritarian rule.
Reuters, AP, AFP contributed to the report