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News Analysis: Egypt's strict sentences in soccer riot case expected to release political tension

English.news.cn   2013-01-26 23:43:08            

CAIRO, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- As an Egyptian court ordered Saturday death sentences for 21 defendants over Port Said soccer riot, which killed over 70 last February, analysts say the verdict is expected to relatively release tension in the chaos-stricken country, despite the turmoil it created in Port Said.

As many as 74 people were killed and 73 others, including nine top security officials, were arrested after the tragic riots at Port Said Stadium last year following a soccer match between Port Said's al-Masry and Cairo's al-Ahly teams.

After Saturday's strict sentence, thousands of Cairo-based soccer fans who had vowed earlier to die for the retaliation for their murdered fellows, expressed overwhelming happiness over the verdict.

Local observers said that if it is a light sentence, which dissatisfies the anger soccer fans and relatives of the victims, Egypt's opposition could use their anger to exercise more pressure on the government, especially as the verdict comes following nationwide protests against the economic policies and political decisions of President Mohamed Morsi.

Mostafa Kamel al-Sayed, a political science professor at Cairo University, told Xinhua he expected the verdict "to temporarily release the political tension in Egypt and spare further turmoil that would have been created by soccer fans named the Ultras."

Al-Sayed, however, deemed the government responsible for the tension and recommended it to engage in real negotiation and reconciliation with the opposition.

"Now it is more difficult for the opposition that relied on the Port Said case and the Ultras as pressure card in the political equation with the government, as the verdict fulfills one of the major public demands, which is compensation for the victims and fair trial for the wrongdoers," he said.

Hence, through the strict verdict, the state proves it is on the right track by deterrent punishment of perpetrators and establishment of justice, which are main demands of anti- government protesters, he added.

Abdel-Moneim Saeed, a political analyst and former chief of state-run al-Ahram newspaper, said some "cunning" opposition forces hoped to use Cairo's unhappy soccer fans to rally more supporters and enhance their presence on the ground in the face of President Morsi's powerful Islamists.

"I do not believe a lot of people would support more anti- government protests after the verdict, but it all depends on the government that should learn that thousands or maybe millions are dissatisfied with its policies," he told Xinhua.

Saeed expressed pride of the verdict and the bravery of the judiciary that made a decision despite the difficult circumstances in which the verdict would calm Cairo and infuriate Port Said.

"It was a rare historic moment, as it is related to a big massacre that killed 74," Saeed told Xinhua.

Till now, at least 25 were killed and over 250 injured in clashes in Port Said between security forces and family members of 21 convicts who were sentenced to death, according to official reports. The angry mob also took to the streets, blocked traffic, broke into some police stations and attacked some public and private properties.

On the other hand, the families of the soccer riot victims hailed "the honorable Egyptian judiciary" for the verdict.

Observers believe that if the Port Said rage is contained, the country is expected to head toward further political stability.

Editor: yan
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