27 dead in Egyptian clashes over death sentences
27 dead in Egyptian clashes over death sentences
The director of hospitals in Port Said said two soccer players and two police officers are among those killed.
Violence erupted in the Mediterranean city after a judge sentenced 21 people to death in connection with a Feb. 1, 2012, soccer melee that killed 74 fans of the Cairo-based Al-Ahly team.
Health official Dr. Abdel-Raham Farah said Mahmoud Abdel-Halim Al-Dizawi, a soccer player in Port Said’s Al-Marikh club, was shot three times and died.
He said Tamer Al-Fahla, a soccer player who used to play for the city’s main Al-Masry team, was also shot dead on his way to Al-Marikh club.
Immediately after the verdict, two police were shot dead outside Port Said’s main prison when angry relatives tried to storm the facility to free the defendants. The club is near a prison residents tried to storm.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, as well as live rounds, at the crowd outside the prison, killing a number of rioters, security officials said.
Various officials said hundreds were reported injured in the clashes.
Two policemen were among those killed, the Interior Ministry said in a separate statement, adding that there were “many critical injuries among police forces.”
Saturday's verdict follows deadly clashes between police and demonstrators on Friday, the second anniversary of the uprising that overthrew longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. Such cycles of violence, often lasting for weeks and costing dozens of lives, have occurred regularly over the past two years.
Die-hard soccer fans from both teams, known as Ultras, hold the police at least partially responsible for the Port Said deaths and criticize Egypt’s President Muhammad Mursi for doing little to reform the force.
Al-Ahly Ultras in particular have been at the forefront of protests. But anger also is boiling in Port Said, where residents say they have been unfairly scapegoated.
Security officials said the military is being deployed to Port Said — the second such deployment in less than 24 hours. The army was widely used to keep order by top generals who took over after Mubarak, but the military has kept a much lower profile since Mursi was elected as president in June.
Mursi canceled a scheduled trip to Ethiopia Saturday and instead met for the first time with top generals as part of the newly-formed National Defense Council.
The military was also deployed overnight in the city of Suez after eight people died in clashes between security forces and protesters opposed to Mursi. Another protester was killed in Ismailiya, and security officials told the state news agency MENA that two policemen were killed in Friday’s protests, bringing the death toll on the second anniversary of Egypt’s uprising to 11.
Judge Sobhi Abdel-Maguid read out the death sentences related to the Feb. 1 riot in Port Said that killed 74 fans of the Cairo-based Al-Ahly team. Defendants’ lawyers said all those sentenced were fans of the Port Said team, Al-Masry. Executions in Egypt are usually carried out by hanging.
The judge Saturday said in his statement read live on state TV that he would announce the verdict for the remaining 52 defendants on March 9.
Among those on trial are nine security officials, but none were handed sentences Saturday, lawyers and security officials say.
Fans of Al-Ahly, whose stands were attacked by rival club Al-Masry in the Feb. 1 incident in Port Said, had promised more violence if the accused did not receive death sentences. In the days leading up to the verdict, Al-Ahly fans warned of bloodshed and “retribution.” Hundreds of Al-Ahly fans gathered outside the Cairo sports club in anticipation of the verdict, chanting against the police and the government.
Before the judge could read out the names of the 21, families erupted in screams of “Allahu Akbar!” Arabic for God is great, with their hands in the air and waving pictures of the deceased. One man fainted while others hugged one another. The judge smacked the bench several times to try and contain reaction in the courtroom.
“This was necessary,” said Nour Al-Sabah, whose 17 year-old son Ahmed Zakaria died in the melee. “Now I want to see the guys when they are executed with my own eyes, just as they saw the murder of my son.”
The verdict is not expected to calm tensions between the two rival teams. The judge is expected to make public his reasons for the death sentences March 9, when the remaining 52 defendants receive their sentences.
A Port Said resident and lawyer of one of the defendants given a death sentence said the verdict was nothing more than “a political decision to calm the public.”
“There is nothing to say these people did anything and we don’t understand what this verdict is based on,” Mohammed Al-Daw told The Associated Press by telephone.
“Our situation in Port Said is very grave because kids were taken from their homes for wearing green T-shirts,” he said, referring to the Al-Masry team color.
The violence began after the Port Said’s home team won the match, 3-1. Al-Masry fans stormed the pitch after the game ended, attacking Cairo’s Al-Ahly fans.
Authorities shut off the stadium lights, plunging it into darkness. In the exit corridor, the fleeing crowd pressed against a chained gate until it broke open. Many were crushed under the crowd of people trying to flee.
Survivors of the riot described a nightmarish scene in the stadium. Police stood by doing nothing, they said, as fans of Al-Masry attacked supporters of the top Cairo club stabbing them and throwing them off bleachers.
Al-Ahly survivors said supporters of Al-Masry carved the words “Port Said” into their bodies and undressed them while beating them with iron bars.
While there has long been bad blood between the two rival teams, many blamed police for failing to perform usual searches for weapons at the stadium.
Both Al-Ahly Ultras and Al-Masry Ultras widely believe that ex-members of the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak helped instigate the attack, and that the police at the very least were responsible for gross negligence. It is not clear what kind of evidence, if any, was presented to the court to back up claims that the attack had been orchestrated by regime officials.
“The police are thugs!” yelled relatives of the deceased inside the courtroom before the judge took the bench.
As is customary in Egypt, the death sentences will be sent to the nation’s top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, for approval, though the court has final say on the matter.
All of the defendants — who were not present in the courtroom Saturday for security reasons — have the right to appeal the verdict.
The melee was the world’s deadliest soccer violence in 15 years.
The Ultras are proud of their hatred for the police, who were the backbone of Mubarak’s authoritarian rule. They then then directed their chants against the military rulers who took over after Mubarak’s ouster.
Ultras from several Egyptian sports clubs were engaged in deadly clashes with police near the Interior Ministry headquarters in Cairo that killed 42 people less than three months before the soccer melee in Port Said.
Erdogan proclaimed winner of Turkey’s presidential election
- Erdogan has just under 53 percent in the presidential poll while Ince, of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), was on 31 percent, state-run Anadolu news agency said, based on a 96 percent vote count
- The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was polling 11 percent, well over the 10 percent minimum threshold needed to win 46 seats, which would make it the second largest opposition party in the new chamber
ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won Turkey’s landmark election Sunday, the country’s electoral commission said, ushering in a new system granting the president sweeping new powers which critics say will cement what they call a one-man rule.
The presidential and parliamentary elections, held more than a year early, complete NATO-member Turkey’s transition from a parliamentary system of government to a presidential one in a process started with a referendum last year.
“The nation has entrusted to me the responsibility of the presidency and the executive duty,” Erdogan said in televised remarks from Istanbul after a near-complete count carried by the state-run Anadolu news agency gave him the majority needed to avoid a runoff.
Speaking early Monday, Supreme Election Council head Sadi Guven said 97.7 of votes had been counted and declared Erdogan the winner.
Guven said that based on unofficial results, five parties passed the threshold of 10 percent of votes required for parties to enter parliament.
Cheering Erdogan supporters waving Turkish flags gathered outside the president’s official residence in Istanbul, chanting, “Here’s the president, here’s the commander.”
“Justice has been served!” said Cihan Yigici, an Erdogan supporter in the crowd.
Thousands of jubilant supporters of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, also spilled into the streets of the predominantly Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakir after unofficial results from Anadolu showed the party coming in third with 11.5 percent of the legislative vote — surpassing the 10 percent threshold needed to enter parliament.
The HDP’s performance was a particular success since presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas, eight more of its lawmakers and thousands of party members campaigned from jails and prisons. HDP says more than 350 of its election workers have been detained since April 28.
The imprisoned Demirtas, who has been jailed pending trial on terrorism-related charges he has called trumped-up and politically motivated, was in third place in the presidential race with 8.3 percent of the vote, according to Anadolu.
Revelers waved HDP flags and blared car horns. One party supporter, Nejdet Erke, said he had been “waiting for this emotion” since morning.
Erdogan insisted the expanded powers of the Turkish presidency will bring prosperity and stability to the country, especially after a failed military coup attempt in 2016. A state of emergency imposed after the coup remains in place.
Some 50,000 people have been arrested and 110,000 civil servants have been fired under the emergency, which opposition lawmakers say Erdogan has used to stifle dissent.
The new system of government abolished the office of prime minister and empowers the president to take over an executive branch and form the government. He will appoint ministers, vice presidents and high-level bureaucrats, issue decrees, prepare the budget and decide on security policies.
The Turkish Parliament will legislate and have the right to ratify or reject the budget. With Erdogan remaining at the helm of his party, a loyal parliamentary majority could reduce checks and balances on his power unless the opposition can wield an effective challenge.
The president’s critics have warned that Erdogan’s re-election would cement his already firm grip on power and embolden a leader they accuse of showing increasingly autocratic tendencies.
Erdogan’s apparent win comes at a critical time for Turkey. He recently has led a high-stakes foreign affairs gamble, cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin with pledges to install a Russian missile defense system in the NATO-member country.
Ince said the results carried on Anadolu misrepresented the official vote count by the country’s electoral board. The main opposition party that nominated him for the presidency, the CHP, said it was waiting for an official announcement from the country’s electoral board.
Erdogan also declared victory for the People’s Alliance, an electoral coalition between his ruling Justice and Development Party and the small Nationalist Movement Party, saying they had secured a “parliamentary majority” in the 600-member assembly.
The unofficial results for the parliamentary election showed Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, losing its majority, with 293 seats in the 600-seat legislature. However, the small nationalist party the AKP allied with garnered 49 seats.
“Even though we could not reach out goal in parliament, God willing we will be working to solve that with all our efforts in the People’s Alliance,” Erdogan said.
The president, who has never lost an election and has been in power since 2003, initially as prime minister, had faced a more robust, united opposition than ever before. Opposition candidates had vowed to return Turkey to a parliamentary democracy with strong checks and balances and have decried what they call Erdogan’s “one-man rule.”
A combative president, Erdogan enjoys considerable support in the conservative and pious heartland, having empowered previously disenfranchised groups. From a modest background himself, he presided over an infrastructure boom that modernized Turkey and lifted many out of poverty while also raising Islam’s profile, for instance by lifting a ban on Islamic headscarves in schools and public offices.
But critics say he has become increasingly autocratic and intolerant of dissent. The election campaign was heavily skewed in his favor, with opposition candidates struggling to get their speeches aired on television in a country where Erdogan directly or indirectly controls most of the media.
Ince, a 54-year-old former physics teacher, was backed by the center-left opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP. He wooed crowds with an unexpectedly engaging campaign, drawing massive numbers at his rallies in Turkey’s three main cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.
More than 59 million Turkish citizens, including 3 million expatriates, were eligible to vote.