Egypt’s Port Said Criminal court has confirmed on Saturday the death sentences of 21 Port Said football fans accused of sparking deadly riots at a stadium last year.
In a ruling on live TV, Five more people were sentenced to between one year and life in jail on Saturday as the verdicts were announced in Cairo.
The football stadium massacre occurred in February 2012 at the end of a match between Cairo’s Al Ahly and local side Al-Masry, and have been a flashpoint for protests across the country.
Twenty-eight defendants were acquitted on Saturday and the former head of the Port Said security forces, General Essam Samek, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Spectators were crushed when panicked crowds tried to escape from the stadium after a pitch invasion by supporters of Al-Masry. Others fell or were thrown from terraces.
The verdict follows an earlier one in the same trial announced in January, where a Port Said court gave the death penalty to the 21 people in connection with the stadium riot.
At the match in February last year, spectators were crushed when panicked crowds tried to escape from the stadium after a pitch invasion by supporters of al-Masry. Others fell or were thrown from terraces.
Rioting after the death sentences were originally announced has underlined worsening security in Egyptian cities since the 2011 overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.
A protester in Port Said died of a bullet wound to the head on Friday which he sustained in clashes with police earlier in the week, a medical source said. Another protester died during the night after violence on Thursday.
Protesters holding flags chanted “With our blood we will redeem you, Port Said!” and “The people want to bring down the regime”, the signature chant of the demonstrators who ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule in 2011.
Nine of the suspects in the case are policemen. They include Essam Samak, the former head of the Port Said security directorate, as well as the former heads of the National Security Agency and the Central Security Forces in the governorate.
“The nine suspects were not included in the death penalty verdict of last January, which is still being examined by the grand mufti, a standard procedure with executions here,” a report by the Egypt Independent newspaper stated.
At least eight people have been killed in this week’s protests in the city, including three policemen.
The army formed a security cordon around the central security directorate building in Port Said and local government offices. The officers are there to protect the area and stop bloodshed but not to police the people, Major General Ahmed Wasfi said.