Egyptian court confirms death sentences for 21 soccer fans

An Egyptian court today confirmed  death sentences given to 21 soccer fans for their role in a stadium riot in Port Said last year, a case which has provoked deadly clashes in the Suez Canal city.

The stadium deaths occurred in February 2012 at the end of a match between Cairo's Al-Ahly and Al-Masry, the local side, and have been a flashpoint for protests in Port Said and Cairo.

Spectators were crushed when panicked crowds tried to escape from the stadium after a pitch invasion by supporters of Al-Masry. Others fell or were thrown from terraces.

Listing the names of the 21, the judge said the court had confirmed "the death penalty by hanging". In a ruling on live TV, the Cairo court also sentenced five more people to life in jail for the riot and acquitted 28. Others out of a total of 73 defendants received shorter jail sentences.

Rioting after the death sentences were originally announced on Jan. 26 has underlined worsening security in Egyptian cities since the 2011 overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

The Islamist government of President Mohamed Mursi is struggling to halt the slide in law and order, hampered by a strike by some protesting police. At least eight people have been killed in Port Said this week, including three policemen



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