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Egyptian Court Gives 21 Death Sentences Over Soccer Riot

NPR icon by Dana Farrington

An Egyptian court has sentenced 21 defendants to death over a soccer riot last year in Port Said, AFP and other new agencies report.

As NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reported in April, the violence followed a game between the home team and a longtime rival from Cairo, leaving 74 people dead.

The death sentences still await approval by Egypt's Grand Mufti, Al Jazeera reports, and the other defendants will not get their verdicts until March.

The court ruling comes the day after the two-year anniversary of the Egyptian revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Protests that started Friday have continued into a second day.

At least seven people have died and hundreds have been injured in clashes around the country, The Associated Press says. Early Saturday, President Mohamed Morsi sent re-enforcements to Suez, Al Jazeera reports.

"Egypt's [security] apparatuses will chase the criminals and bring them to justice. They are also doing their best to protect and secure the peaceful demonstrations," Morsi said Saturday, according to Al Jazeera.

NPR's Leila Fadel told our Newscast unit Friday there was "rage" in Tahrir Square. She says Egyptians have a list of frustrations, including the economy and civil liberties:

"One of the biggest grievances, especially among the young activists is that hardly anyone has been held accountable for the ... at least 900 people that were killed during Egypt's revolution two years ago, but also the protesters that have died since."

Mubarak received a life sentence for failing to stop the killing of protesters in June, but a court overturned that and ordered a retrial earlier this month.

The Washington Post points to a Pew survey that shows 81 percent of Egyptians consider it "very important" to have a "fair judiciary," topping a list of priorities.

Update at 4:55 a.m. ET. Relief, Violence Follows Verdict:

"Families of the dead in the courtroom held up pictures of their deceased relatives and wept with relief [after the judge read the statement]," NPR's Leila Fadel tells our Newscast unit.

But outside, the verdict set off a riot, she says.

Two policeman have been killed, reports Reuters (citing a "security source") and state-run Al-Ahram (citing Egypt's interior ministry).

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