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Egypt unrest toll rises to 32

Posted on Jan 28, 11:06AM | IBNS

The funerals of the slain Egyptian victims of last year's soccer riot verdict are likely to take place on Sunday even as the death toll in the violent clash rose to 32, said reports.

At least 32 people lost their lives, including at least two police officers, during protests in Port Said after a court pronounced death sentences to 21 fans accused of igniting the last year's fierce football riot in the Mediterranean city.

Reports suggest that more than 300 people were injured in the northeastern city of Port Said as the convicts' kin clashed with authorities outside a prison, where their kin were being held.

Judge Sobhi Abdel-Maguid reportedly did not give his reasoning as he pronounced the verdicts for the 21 accused out of the 73 defendants on Saturday.

The verdict for the remaining 52 defendants, including nine security officials, charged with murder and assisting the attackers is scheduled to be delivered March 9.

However, the verdicts are not final as death sentences are required to be approved by Egypt's grand mufti, which is largely a procedural formality.

Defendants are also granted a chance to appeal for their sentences, which could take years to carry out.

Police had reportedly sealed off Port Said, and the army was deployed to "restore stability".

A curfew was imposed in the area around the prison, reports said.

General Ahmed Wasfi was quoted by the official MENA news agency saying, "It has been decided to deploy some units to work for calm and stability and the protection of public establishments."

On Feb 1, 2012, at least 74 people were killed in the riot, which followed the final whistle in a game between Port Said-based al-Masry and the Cairo-based al-Ahly.

Al-Masry fans, after winning the match, pelted stones, bottles and fireworks at al-Ahly supporters.

According to witnesses, police at the stadium did nothing to stop the violence, which eventually resulted into days of violent protests in the capital Cairo.

Two months later, Egypt's general prosecutor charged 75 people with "premeditated murder and attempted murder," while three Al-Masry officials and nine police officers were charged with "assisting the murderers."

According to the prosecutor's office, the Al-Masry group was well aware of the assault before and didn't confiscate weapons in advance.

The electricity engineer, who was also charged, turned off the lights directly over the bleachers where the Al-Ahly fans were sitting, right after the Al-Masry team won by 3-1.

Many died after falling from bleachers inside the stadium, while others suffocated.

The Saturday's violence comes in when Egypt was already a hotbed of deadly protests that marked the second anniversary of the revolution that toppled longtime Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak.

According to reports, at least ten people were killed on Friday in anti-government protests in Suez and Ismailia, and more than 470 people were injured.

Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, had to deploy the army in Suez to restore order.

On Saturday, police fired teargas in the city when protesters agitated at Friday's deaths, hurled petrol bombs and stormed a police post and other governmental buildings including the agriculture and social solidarity units.

Around 18 prisoners in Suez police stations managed to escape during the violence, and some 30 police weapons were stolen, said reports.