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posted: 3/9/2013 12:30 PM

Egypt court upholds death sentences for Port Said soccer riot

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CAIRO -- An Egyptian court affirmed its sentence to death by hanging for 21 Port Said soccer fans involved in rioting last year that killed dozens who supported a visiting team.

The Port Said criminal court, sitting in Cairo for security reasons, also ruled today in the cases of another 52 defendants in the case, among them nine police officers. Two of the policemen were sentenced to 15 years in prison, the state-run Middle East News Agency said. A total of 28 of those accused were acquitted, while the rest received prison terms from one year to life, according to Judge Sobhi Abdel Meguid, who was shown live on state television.

Port Said, the city that lies on the Mediterranean coast at the entrance of the Suez Canal, has been gripped by clashes between protesters and police since January's preliminary ruling in the case. More than 30 people have died in the unrest, prompting President Mohamed Mursi to deploy the military and declare a state of emergency in the city along with two neighboring ones.

The riot took place in February 2012, when hundreds of fans of Port Said's Al Masry Club rushed across the field to the stands of Cairo's Al Ahly, the opposing team, as police forces stood idle. More than 70 Al Ahly fans were killed as they tried to flee, only to find the gates bolted.

Port Said police turned over the province's security headquarters to the military yesterday after days of clashes with protesters centered around the building, the state-run Al Ahram newspaper reported today.

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