Three killed in Cairo as violence rages after Port Said verdict (VIDEO, PHOTOS)
Three protesters have been killed and reportedly 65 injured in Cairo as outraged crowds protest both in the Egyptian capital and the city of Port Said over the latest verdict on the deadly Port Said stadium riot in February 2012.
Security sources have reported that one protester died from the effects of tear gas. Meanwhile, Ahram Online puts the number of dead at three, saying an 8 year-old boy was among them. It says the other two were killed by birdshot during the clashes.
The number of injured also differs with the majority of sources
reporting about 15 people and Reuters putting the figure at
The verdict, broadcast live from the courtroom, was initially
cheered by fans of Cairo's Al-Ahly team.
"First we were happy when we heard the 21 death sentences," one fan told AFP news agency.
"We were cheering and didn't hear the rest of the verdict. Then we were very angry."
An Egyptian court has confirmed Saturday the death sentences for 21 football fans involved in the fatal riots in Port Said in 2012, in which most victims were supporters of the Cairo team.
It also sentenced five other suspects to life in jail and 10 others to 15-year terms, including the city’s security chief Esam Samak.
Six defendants received 10-year terms, two more got five years and a single defendant received a 12-month sentence.
The court also acquitted 28 other defendants in the case that involved 73 people.
Judge Sobhy Abdel Maguid, listing the names of the 21 Al-Masry fans, said the Cairo court had confirmed "the death penalty by hanging", Reuters reports.
The condemned were initially sentenced to death in January. Back then the ruling also resulted in rioting which killed 40 people, most of them during an attempt to storm a prison where the defendants were held in custody.In an angry reaction to the verdict, hundreds of hardcore Cairo Al-Ahly fans torched the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) headquarters.
"The situation is very difficult. The EFA headquarters were totally burned and president Gamal Alaam will return from abroad to attend today's urgent meeting," MENA quoted EFA’s CEO, Sarwat Swelam.All Egyptian football documents have been completely destroyed and the national team's trophies stolen, Swelam told the agency.
“The history of Egyptian football is now lost and cannot be recovered," he said.
The rampaging crowds of hardcore fans attacked not only the federation HQ, but also the police officers’ social club, and a branch of a fast food chain, sending smoke rising over the capital.A military helicopter was seen scooping up water from the nearby Nile and dropping it on the burning buildings.The army cordoned off several official buildings in the city, including the central security directorate and local government’s office. All routes leading to Tahrir Square, the usual site of protest gatherings, have also been closed off by security forces."Ultra" fans, the section of Al-Ahly supporters who are now responsible for much of the violence, said they expected retribution for instigators of the Port Said "massacre".
"What is happening today in Cairo is the beginning of the anger. Wait for more if the remaining elements embroiled in this massacre are not revealed," the Ultras said in a statement cited by Reuters.
However, there are some fans in Cairo who welcomed the court’s verdicts.
"This is a just verdict and has calmed us all down. Our martyrs have been vindicated," Reuters quoted 21-year old Said Sayyid.
Protesters in Port Said displeased with the verdicts
Meanwhile, in Port Said fans of local Al-Masry, the club also involved in the deadly incident, also vented their anger over the confirmed death sentences of 21 of their friends.
If the disturbance in the capital was due to what some
considered too lenient a verdict, in Port Said crowds of fans
have been protesting what they consider too severe a sentence.RT’s
Bel Trew reports from the scene that an angry crowed pelted her
film crew’s car with stones, forcing them to stop taking
Supporters of the defendants said they plan a mass civil disobedience action and a strike in protest against the court’s decision. They began by staging a rally in front of the city administration.
About 2,000 residents who want the local fans released from execution blockaded ferries crossing the Suez Canal, which passes through Port Said.According to witnesses young fans also untied anchored speedboats hoping the boats would drift into the path of passing vessels. Military police managed to return five speedboats and brought them back to shore, but two were still adrift.Mass unrest has been taking place in Port Said since the death sentences were first handed down to the Al-Masry supporters in January.
The verdict follows six days of violent clashes between radical football fans and police in Port Said. At least eight people have been killed over the week of rioting, including three officers. Police were withdrawn from the city, leaving the military to uphold order.
The February 2012 rampage at Port Said’s stadium followed a match between the local team Al-Masry and visitors from Cairo's Al-Ahly club. At least 79 people were killed and more than a 1,000 injured, when local spectators attacked the players from the capital and their fans.Professor of political sociology at the American university in Cairo, Said Sadek, sees the way out of the ongoing unrest in Egypt in President Mohamed Morsi’s political will.
“The president needs to appeal to everybody, that he is the president of all Egyptians – not a president of one organization. If this happens, we will unlikely have the situation we have today. Otherwise, the tension can continue for a long time and we’ll have more unrest,” Sadek told RT.