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Port Said football massacre: Egypt sentences 11 men to death

Relatives of the 72 people killed in 2012 in Egypt's worst stadium violence celebrated the sentence, but some feared a miscarriage of justice
Dozens of people, including police officers and club officials, were arrested over the violence, though most were later acquitted (Reuters)

Egypt has upheld the death sentences against 11 men for their role in the country's worst football violence - the so-called Port Said "massacre" that left 72 people dead.

The Cairo Appeals Court, the highest civilian court in Egypt, confirmed the sentences on Monday, five years after the violence on 1 February 2012 in Port Said during a match between al-Ahly and the local team, al-Masry.

Fans of Ahly have long accused al-Masry fans of being responsible for the violence, saying that Masry supporters attacked them with knives, swords and fireworks just after Ahly’s 3-1 victory.

The case, known in local media as the "Port Said massacre", has taken years to progress through the courts.

A total of 73 defendants were originally charged, including nine police officers and two officials from the Masry club. Seven of the police officers were eventually acquitted, while two were handed five-year jail terms. One al-Masry official also got a five-year sentence, and the second was acquitted.

The police have frequently been accused of mishandling the disaster, with survivors saying that exit gates were kept locked shut, causing a deadly crush among panicked fans. 

The 11 men sentenced on Monday were convicted of premeditated murder, theft and "thuggery", having exhausted all their appeal rights.

The court’s decision was welcomed by many fans of al-Ahly and relatives of those killed in the violence – a group gathered outside Ahly’s stadium in Cairo to light flares.

Translation: Joy among families of al-Ahly martyrs outside the stadium after the death sentences for 11 convicts were confirmed

Some, writing on social media, have called for the executions to be carried out in the Port Said Stadium, where the violence broke out.

However, supporters of Masry – as well as a player from Ahly - have criticised the ruling, and say they fear a miscarriage of justice.  

One of the convicted men, Hassan al-Magdy, claims to be a supporter of Ahly who was injured in the violence and wrongly placed on the list of defendants.

Emad Moteab, one of al-Ahly’s star strikers and a player on the national team, released a statement on Wednesday testifying that he had found Magdy crying in the al-Ahly dressing room just after the match finished.

Large numbers of fans took shelter in the dressing room as violence began to break out, and a number reportedly died there.

Moteab – who briefly retired from football following the disaster – testified that he had given Magdy, who was barefoot, his flip-flops.

Translation: Hassan al-Magdy was sentenced to death over the Port Said massacre despite a video showing that he is a fan of al-Ahly, and despite Emad Moteab's evidence in support of him

A local human rights group in Port Said has written an open letter to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi requesting a presidential pardon for the men sentenced to death.

Death sentences in Egypt have to be signed by the grand mufti, the country’s highest Sunni Muslim authority, and then by the president, before being carried out.

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