21 fans sentenced to death for football riot

21 fans sentenced to death for football riot
By Eurosport

26/01/2013 at 22:03Updated 27/01/2013 at 01:57

An Egyptian court has sentence 21 football fans to death for taking part in a riot at a match last year in which 74 people were killed.

Around 1,000 people were injured in the extraordinary riot on February 1 last year, which took place when fans of local side Al-Masry clashed with fans of Cairo team Al-Ahly after Masry had beaten the away team 3-1.

Those killed were had either been crushed in the stampede to escape the stadium, caught in explosions or fell from the stadium walls, according to witnesses.

As the judge announced the sentence at the court in Cairo, relatives of the victims cheered and wailed in relief, shouting "God is great".

But shortly after the verdict was announced there were violent scenes at the prison where most of the defendants are being held, with two policemen shot dead as families of the condemned tried to storm the building.

And there was further violence in Port Said, where locals were angry that their fans have been blamed for the riot. Angry groups of fans tried to storm a police station, and a further six people were reportedly killed.

A further 52 people who were also on trial will have their verdicts delivered on March 9.

The riot last year was the worst violence at a football match for 15 years, and sparked huge controversy in the country.

Police were subsequently accused of not having searched fans for weapons before what is always a volatile clash, then standing back and watching the chaos unfold.

Others have claimed that the violence was planned in advance by 'Ultra' fans of Al-Masry who took weapons - including knives, rocks and explosives - to the game.

Many in Egypt believe the violence was allowed to happen by authorities looking to punish Al-Ahly Ultras for their part in last year's revolution that ousted former president Hosny Mubarak and in subsequent demonstrations.

The stadium's chief electrical engineer was among those ordered to stand trial, with the failure of the lights moments after the final whistle thought to have contributed significantly to the carnage which followed. It is believed that he is among those whose verdict will be delivered in March.