An Egyptian protester throws a teargas back during clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police near Tahrir square in Cairo, March 9, 2013. Two protesters were killed during the clashes. (Xinhua/Amru Salahuddien)
CAIRO, March 9 (Xinhua) -- Egypt's Port Said Criminal Court sentenced Saturday five people to life imprisonment for their role in the Port Said soccer riots which killed over 70 in February 2012.
The court, presided by Judge Soubhy Abdel-Meguid, also confirmed the death sentences it issued on Jan. 26 for another 21 defendants and acquitted 28 out of the total 73 people accused in the case.
The court also sentenced 10 defendants, including security chief of Port Said security headquarters Essam Samak, to 15 years in jail, six people to 10 years of imprisonment, two to five years and one defendant to one year.
Dissatisfied with the acquittals of 28 defendants, a group of Cairo-based soccer fans called Utras Ahlawy gathered Saturday outside al-Ahly sports club in Cairo after the court's ruling, chanting to revenge for those killed in the riots, known in Egypt as the "Port Said massacre."
Some 73 defendants, including nine top security officials, were arrested after deadly riots erupted at Port Said Stadium during a match between Port Said's al-Masry and Cairo's al-Ahly soccer teams, only two officers were sentenced while the other seven were acquitted.
After the court issued in January an initial verdict sentencing 21 defendants to death, violent clashes erupted in Port Said and left 40 killed and hundreds others injured. Saturday's sentences are likely to further inflame the seaside Egyptian governorate.
Egypt's interior ministry decided Friday to hand over its police headquarters in Port Said to the military, which has been deployed there since late January, to avoid further confrontations with protesters after days of unrest.
Also on Saturday, thousands of Cairo-based soccer fans broke into a police club and set it on fire, following the court verdict, state-run al-Ahram Online quoted a security officer as saying, adding that several premises in the club complex were in flames.
Eyewitnesses told Xinhua that residents of nearby areas used garden water hoses in an attempt to help extinguish the flames.
Meanwhile, Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi ordered sending two military helicopters to participate in putting out the fire, official MENA news agency reported.
The crowds of the Ultras made it difficult for 20 fire engines to reach the blazing scene, while the soccer fans repeatedly chanted "The government should fear us!"
Mansour Mahmoud, a 33-year-old member of the group, told Xinhua that "the verdict is politicized, as only two police officers were convicted," adding that the verdict was meant to placate the Ultras.
"Our fight is with the interior ministry," Mahmoud said, ruling out the possibility for their confrontation with the armed forces.
The Ultras Ahlawy group members then blocked a main bridge in downtown Cairo and caused traffic jam on the way to the interior ministry headquarters to continue their protests against what they described as "light sentences" in the Port Said soccer riots case.
The security forces blocked all entrances and exits leading to the interior ministry and raise utmost readiness to face deterioration or violent acts by the ultras fans. An armored vehicle was situated outside the ministry building in case of possible vandalism acts.
Saturday's court ruling did not only enrage the 21 defendants' families but also angered members of Ultras Ahlawy who set fire to a police club and the nearby headquarters of the Egyptian Football Association in Cairo in response to the "dissatisfactory" verdict.
On the other hand, two were killed and 14 were injured Saturday in clashes between protesters, rioters and security forces at Qasr al-Nil Bridge near Tahrir Square, while five others were injured at a blazing police club in Cairo, Mohamed Sultan, head of Egypt's Ambulance Authority told Xinhua.
"One was shot dead while the other died of suffocation due to inhaling tear gas," Sultan added.
CAIRO, March 9 (Xinhua) -- Egypt's Interior Ministry warned in a statement Saturday of "strict measures" against rioters who set fire to public and private properties and assault security forces in Cairo.
"The ministry warns and asserts that it will take decisive and strict measures toward such aggressions which harm everyone and directly affect the stability of the nations," the statement said. Full story