The Two-Way
11:01 pm
Fri January 25, 2013

Egyptian Court Gives 21 Death Sentences Over Soccer Riot

Originally published on Sat January 26, 2013 9:11 am

The top of this post was updated at 10:28 a.m. ET:

An Egyptian court has sentenced 21 defendants to death over a deadly soccer riot last year, adding fuel to the violent protests that continued to flare across the country on Saturday.

Military forces were deployed to Port Said after protesters stormed the prison housing the defendants and killed two police officers, the AP reports.

The court's ruling comes the day after the two-year anniversary of the Egyptian revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Countrywide protests marking the anniversary have since turned violent and continued into a second day.

The head of the hospital in Port Said says as many as 25 people are dead in the violence, NPR's Leila Fadel reports, and that number is expected to rise. Elsewhere in the country, Fadel reports at least nine dead and hundreds injured.

Early Saturday, President Mohamed Morsi also sent re-enforcements to Suez where five demonstrators and one soldier were killed, Al Jazeera reports.

"Egypt's [security] apparatuses will chase the criminals and bring them to justice. They are also doing their best to protect and secure the peaceful demonstrations," Morsi said Saturday, according to Al Jazeera.

As NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reported in April, the violence following a soccer game between the home team and a longtime rival from Cairo left 74 people dead. The death sentences still await approval by Egypt's highest law official, the Grand Mufti, Al Jazeera reports.

Reporting on the larger protests Friday, Fadel told our Newscast unit there was "rage" in Tahrir Square. She said Egyptians have a list of frustrations, including the economy and civil liberties:

"One of the biggest grievances, especially among the young activists is that hardly anyone has been held accountable for the ... at least 900 people that were killed during Egypt's revolution two years ago, but also the protesters that have died since."

Mubarak received a life sentence for failing to stop the killing of protesters in June, but a court overturned that and ordered a retrial earlier this month.

The Washington Post points to a Pew survey that shows 81 percent of Egyptians consider it "very important" to have a "fair judiciary," topping a list of priorities.

Update at 8:50 a.m. ET. Fighting In Port Said Claims More Lives:

The number of deaths in the Port Said clashes has risen to 22, Egypt's health ministry says. Two hundred people have been injured in the fighting, it says, including "many critical injuries among police forces."

Update at 6:55 a.m. ET. More Deaths Reported In Port Said:

Security officials tell the AP that six others, along with two police, have died in clashes in Port Said:

"Immediately after the verdict, two police were shot dead outside Port Said's main prison when angry relatives tried to storm the facility to free the defendants. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, as well as live rounds, at the crowd outside the prison, killing six, security officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations."

Update at 4:55 a.m. ET. Relief, Violence Follows Verdict:

"Families of the dead in the courtroom held up pictures of their deceased relatives and wept with relief [after the judge read the statement]," NPR's Leila Fadel tells our Newscast unit.

But outside, the verdict set off a riot, she says.

Two policemen have been killed, reports Reuters (citing a "security source") and state-run Al-Ahram (citing Egypt's interior ministry).

The court ruling comes the day after the two-year anniversary of the Egyptian revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Protests that started Friday have turned violent and continued into a second day.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.