27 Egyptians Killed in Violent Protests After Judge Hands Down Death Penalty to Soccer Rioters
In another sign of trouble for the Muslim Brotherhood that has tried to bring order to Egypt, at least 27 people died in Egypt on Saturday after an Egyptian judge sentenced 21 people to death for their alleged roles in a Feb. 1, 2012 soccer riot that killed 74 fans of the Al-Ahly soccer team, which is based in Cairo.
According to the Associated Press, Egyptian Judge Sobhi Abdel-Maguid "did not give his reasoning when he read out the verdicts for 21 out of the 73 defendants Saturday. The verdict for the remaining 52 defendants, including nine security officials, is scheduled to be delivered March 9."
In Egypt, those sentenced to death have an opportunity to appeal "to the nation's top religious authority, the Grand Mufti," but the court has "final sas on the matter." In Egypt, death sentences are carried out by hanging.
Last February, in a match between Port Said's Al-Masry team and Cairo's Al-Ahly team, loyalists of former Egyptian strongman President Hosni Mubarak allegedly instigated the attacks. Port Said's team won 3-1 and, according to reports, "Al-Masry fans stormed the pitch after the game ended, attacking Cairo's Al-Ahly fans."
Then, things got worse as the fighting escalated, as the stadium went dark and fans were trapped inside the gates until the gates finally collapsed:
Die-hard soccer fans from both teams, known as Ultras, hold the police at least partially responsible for February's violence, which was the world's worst soccer violence in 15 years, saying officers at the game did nothing to stop the bloodshed.
Many of the fans who rioted and protested on Saturday are knowns as "Ultras." These are die-hard soccer fans who often "come from poor neighborhoods and view the police force that was the backbone of Mubarak's authoritarian rule as their nemesis." They "also criticize Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi for doing little to reform the police force or the judiciary since he took office in July."
Al-Ahly fans said there would be "more violence" if the the judge did not hand down the death penalty to some of the alleged perpetrators.
The riots were the latest bouts of violence in Egypt "that has left a total of 38 people dead in two days, including 11 killed in clashes between police and protesters marking Friday's second anniversary of the uprising that overthrew longtime leader Hosni Mubarak."
President Mohammed Morsi met with his top generals to assess the situation.
On Saturday, the National Salvation Front, which is the opposition party, held Morsi responsible for "the excessive use of force by the security forces against protesters."
The Muslim Brotherhood blamed the "misleading" media for "enflaming the people's hatred for the current regime and urging them to act violently."
Two soccer players were also shot to death after the verdicts were read on television.