Saturday, January 26, 2013

Death sentences in Egypt soccer riot spark new clashes

Death sentences in Egypt soccer riot spark new clashes

Violence erupted in Egypt again on Saturday as at least eight people were killed in protests in Port Said following the verdict for the soccer stadium massacre one year ago. The clashes came as Egypt reeled from deadly protests that killed nine people across the country marking the second anniversary of the January 25 revolution.

A judge announced the death penalty for 21 of the 73 defendants on trial for the Port Said massacre. Clashes in Port Said following the announcement of the verdict left at least five dead and dozens more injured, according to the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram.

Seventy-four people died in riots at a soccer stadium in Port Said on February 1, 2012. Eyewitnesses said police did nothing to stop the melee that broke out between two rival soccer teams and even refused to open the doors to allow people to escape. The massacre was held up as proof of the country’s slide towards anarchy.

Over the past week, the “ultras,” or young soccer hooligans who are often at the head of protest marches and responsible for much of the violence at Egypt’s protests, posted online threats promising to destroy and burn buildings across Cairo if they are unsatisfied with the verdict.

If it is anything less than capital punishment, “the country will burn,” one 19-year-old ‘ultra’ named Ahmed told The Jerusalem Post on Friday in Tahrir Square. “We are angry because we haven’t received our rights… it’s not just a football match, the [Muslim] Brotherhood wants to continue to burn the country so they can continue to rule,” he said. “There’s no justice.”

In the aftermath of clashes on Friday night to mark the two-year anniversary, pundits and politicians focused much attention on a new group of protesters who also could be linked to the ultras: the black bloc. For the first time on Friday, teenagers and young people came out in force dressed head-to-toe in black, many wearing black balaclava ski masks.

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