9 Mar 2013

Egyptian court confirms football riot death sentences

10:00 pm on 9 March 2013

A court in Egypt has upheld 21 death sentences handed down over deadly football riots in Port Said, amid continuing unrest over the trial.

Five of 52 other defendants were sentenced to life in prison for rioting while others received lesser sentences or were acquitted.

During last year's violence between rival fans, 74 people died.

The military has been patrolling the coastal city this weekend in an effort to ease tension.

Elsewhere, at least 10 of Egypt's 29 provinces were affected by an unprecedented strike by thousands of low-ranking police. Some units reportedly left their headquarters after sealing them with chains.

They were protesting against being forced by the government of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi to confront protesters as well as a lack of protection from prosecution.

The BBC reports the chief of security forces was replaced on Friday to try to defuse anger among police.

The court was sitting in the capital Cairo, for security reasons.

After word spread that the defendants were being moved outside Port Said, the city saw six days of clashes between police and protesters around the security headquarters.

At least seven people - civilians and security officials - were killed.

The original death sentences imposed on the 21 defendants in January sparked a revolt in Port Said, where many residents saw the trial as unjust and politically biased.