Following the anniversary of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, the verdict was announced today in the trial of 21 Egyptians accused in the Port Said soccer stadium riot of February 2012. The verdict’s announcement resulted in an attempted jailbreak and riot that left at least 27 people dead in Port Said, including two soccer players for Port Said’s al-Marikh club.
Two of the dead were policemen killed when the prison holding the defendants was stormed following the announcement of the verdict. Many people, including die-hard fans called “ultras,” on both sides of the 2012 riot have placed some blame on police inaction before and during the riot, and they have criticized President Muhammad Morsi for “doing little to reform the [police] force.” Large numbers of fans for Cairo’s al-Ahly team, supporters of which bore the brunt of the violence in 2012, gathered outside their club’s headquarters to await the verdict. They had reportedly earlier issued threats of violence if death sentences were not handed down.
The announcement of the 21 death sentences spurred an ongoing surge in violence across the country that began with protests against President Morsi on the anniversary of the 2011 revolution. Of those sentenced to death, most were from Port Said, which contributed to “a sense of persecution that Port Said’s residents have felt since the stadium disaster, the worst soccer violence ever in Egypt.” At least seventy-four people died in the 2012 riot.