Egypt football riot sentences spark deadly unrest, buildings torched

CAIRO – A court verdict over deadly football violence sparked fresh unrest in Egypt on Saturday, with two people killed and buildings torched in Cairo, as Islamist President Mohamed Morsi faces growing civil unrest.
<p>An Egyptian protester throws back tear gas canisters during clashes with riot police near Tahrir Square in Cairo on March 9, 2013. A court verdict over deadly football violence spar....

An Egyptian protester throws back tear gas canisters during clashes with riot police near Tahrir Square in Cairo on March 9, 2013. A court verdict over deadly football violence spar....

CAIRO – A court verdict over deadly football violence sparked fresh unrest in Egypt on Saturday, with two people killed and buildings torched in Cairo, as Islamist President Mohamed Morsi faces growing civil unrest.

A Port Said court, sitting in Cairo for security reasons, confirmed death sentences for 21 defendants and handed down life sentences to five people, with 19 receiving lesser jail terms and another 28 exonerated.

Fans of Al-Ahly football club, whose members were killed in a February 2012 stadium riot in Port Said in which 74 people died, had warned police they would retaliate if the defendants were exonerated.

An AFP correspondent saw one protester brought to a mosque in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square with gunshot wounds, and medics confirmed he was dead.

Earlier, emergency services chief Mohammed Sultan said a protester suffocated after inhaling tear gas, and “died in the ambulance on his way to hospital.”

Police fired tear gas and bird shot as the clashes intensified on a large avenue on the banks of the Nile.

Angry crowds hurled rocks at the police and threw a petrol bomb at a luxury five star hotel in the area that houses several embassies.

Protesters also set ablaze two restaurants near Tahrir Square saying they were owned by Islamist businessmen, witnesses said.

Sporadic clashes have been going on for weeks on the Nile corniche, close to Tahrir Square. The numbers swelled on Saturday when the regular protesters were joined by activists and football fans following the verdict.

Protesters also blocked railway tracks between Cairo and the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, forcing authorities to suspend trains between the two cities, state news MENA said quoting railways chief Hussein Zakariya.

Huge flames rose above the main building of the Egyptian Football Association and a police officers’ club in an affluent neighbourhood on an island in the Nile.

Residents of Gezira used garden hoses to try to extinguish the flames as a police helicopter circled overhead. Windows were smashed at other buildings in the complex.

The football trial has been a ticking time bomb for Morsi, who is facing a revolt in Port Said, growing nationwide unrest and an unprecedented police strike.

The court handed 15-year sentences to the former head of police security, General Essam Samak, and to Brigadier General Mohammed Saad, who was responsible for the stadium gates, which were locked when the riot broke out.

Seven remaining police defendants were acquitted.

Agencies

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