Thousands of Egyptians marched in Port Said in rejection of a pledge by President Mohamed Mursi to probe violence that has seen dozens of protesters killed in clashes with police since the start of the year.
“We are saddened by any drop of Egyptian blood in Port Said or elsewhere,” Mursi told residents of the northeastern city in a televised address late yesterday. “When the findings emerge, everyone will get what they deserve.”
Mursi said law and order should be respected. He also vowed to heed calls to create jobs and a free trade zone in Port Said, demands that predate the 2011 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak. “Your demands for employment and trade are in my heart and it is my responsibility to fulfil them,” he said.
Violence erupted in Port Said in January after a Cairo court sentenced 21 locals to death for their role in a fatal soccer riot last year. Relative calm returned after the military took over security and the police chief was replaced. Residents say police have used excessive force against protesters, with government consent, and many have called for Mursi to resign.
“We are all Egyptians, one hand, and one heart,” Mursi said in the TV address. “There are those who try to frame our differences as a split, which is untrue.”
Last year’s riot took place at a league match when fans of the local Al Masry team rushed across the field toward supporters of Cairo’s Al Ahly team in the stands. More than 70 Al Ahly fans were killed, and the police have been criticized for failing to stop the violence.
On March 9, two senior security officials were sentenced to 15 years in jail for negligence, and seven policemen and two soccer officials were acquitted, fanning tensions.
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