Egypt Clashes Resume as Soccer Fans Prepare for Court Verdict

Egyptian protesters clashed with security forces in Cairo and Port Said, where soccer fans are preparing for a March 9 court verdict that may add to the tensions.

The court is due to rule on 52 defendants charged with involvement in deadly soccer riots in Port Said last year, the country’s worst sporting violence. When 21 supporters of the local team were sentenced to death in the same case in January, it led to a wave of protests that prompted President Mohamed Mursi to declare a curfew in Port Said and two other Suez Canal provinces.

Violence has erupted there again in the past week. Television footage today showed police using tear gas and protesters throwing rocks. At least 223 people were injured in clashes in the cities of Port Said, Mansoura and Mahalla last night, state-run Middle East News Agency reported today.

Protests and violence have destabilized Egypt since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, keeping investors and tourists away and leaving the economy growing at the slowest pace in two decades. Mursi’s plan to hold parliamentary elections starting next month was dealt a blow yesterday when a court suspended the vote.

The riot in Port Said stadium took place in February 2012 at a match between local team al-Masry and Cairo-based al-Ahly. The Ahly supporters are calling for more death sentences and have also warned that they will rally on Saturday when the verdict is due.

The head of security in Port Said was replaced yesterday after the latest unrest. The National Salvation Front, the main opposition bloc, called for an end to violence against protesters in the city. In an e-mailed statement today the group blamed Mursi and his government for a “decline in the security and economic situation across the country.”

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