A court sentenced 11 men to death on Tuesday for their part in Egypt’s worst violence at a soccer stadium, in which more than 70 fans were killed in 2012.

Many of the dead were crushed when panicked fans tried to escape from the Port Said stadium after a post-match pitch invasion by supporters of the local side al-Masry. Others fell or were thrown from terraces, witnesses said at the time. More than 1,000 were injured.

 The court, whose session was televised live, sentenced one of the men to death in absentia. Ten men got 15 years in jail, 14 were sentenced to 10 years, and 15 men received a five-year sentence. The charges included murder and attempted murder.

Twenty-one people were found innocent. The verdicts can be appealed. Among those who received a five-year sentence was the former Port Said police chief.

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The judge had referred the death sentence in April to Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, the country’s most senior religious authority, in a step required by law for convictions in capital cases.

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Judge Mohammed al-Saeed told Reuters that the Mufti approved of the 11 defendants’ death sentences.

Yasser Sayed Ahmed, a lawyer for the family of one of the victims hailed the ruling as “extremely fair and satisfactory”.

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Soccer matches are often a flashpoint for violence in Egypt. The teams in the Port Said incident – al-Masry and Cairo’s al-Ahli – are longtime rivals. Witnesses said the rioting broke out after Cairo fans unfurled banners insulting the local team, which had won the match 3-1.


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