At least 30 people were killed and hundreds injured Saturday in the Egyptian city of Port Said in clashes between police and civilians angered at a court ruling sentencing 21 defendants to death for their role in a deadly football riot that occurred almost a year ago, DPA reported.
Seventy-three people, including sports officials and police officers, were charged with premeditated murder or negligence in connection with the rioting at Port Said stadium in February last year. The verdict for the remaining 52 defendants will be given on March 9, the chief judge of the Criminal Court, Sobhi Abdel-Hamid, said.
The riots broke out between rival fans of the hosts al-Masry and the visiting team al-Ahly following a Premier League match, killing 74 people. It was the country's worst football tragedy in more than a decade.
Most of the defendants did not attend the session, which was held in Cairo, for security reasons.
The death sentences still await approval by Egypt's top Muslim cleric Mufti Ali Gomaa, as customary in Egyptian law.
All defendants have the right to appeal. None of those sentenced on Saturday were police.
Following the sentencing, fierce clashes erupted in Port Said between protesters and police forces, with al-Masry fans and families of the defendants saying the case is politically motivated.
Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, who tried to storm the prison where defendants were being held. They also attacked several governmental buildings, according to state media.
Two police officers were among the dead on Saturday, the Ministry of the Interior said. At least 312 were injured.
Two football players, one from al-Masry and another from the city's al-Marikh Club, were among those killed, local media reported.
Clashes prompted army forces to deploy to Port Said, a coastal city located north east of Cairo, to protect vital institutions and restore security.
Meanwhile, at least nine people were injured in fighting between police and protesters in the coastal city of Suez, one day after eight people were killed in similar violence, said state television, quoting medical officials.
Three police stations in the restive city were attacked and ransacked, according to the broadcaster.
Clashes were also reported between security forces and anti-government demonstrators for the second straight day in Alexandria, Egypt's second biggest city.
In Cairo, police fired tear gas to disperse stone-throwing protesters as both sides were engaged in sporadic street battles near Tahrir Square.
Other protesters blocked Cairo's October 6 Bridge with burning tyres, grounding the traffic on the key bridge to a standstill.
Police said they had foiled an attempt by protesters to storm a courthouse in the Nile Delta of Tanta, the latest in a string of attacks on public institutions in Egypt.
The protesters are believed to be opponents of President Mohammed Morsi and his group, the Muslim Brotherhood.
The unrest comes one day after a total of nine people were killed in a wave of violent protests that erupted across Egypt Friday, marking the second anniversary of a revolt that toppled former president Hosny Mubarak.
The demonstrations were in response to a call by the opposition, which accuses Morsi of tightening the Brotherhood's grip on power.
"The National Salvation Front holds President Mohammed Morsi fully responsible for the excessive violence used by security forces against protesters and calls for an unbiased committee to investigate and punish those responsible for the bloodshed," Egypt's biggest opposition coalition said Saturday.
The bloc, grouping liberals and leftists, threatened to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections and call for mass protests next week, if their demands for political reforms were not met.
They also called for suspending an Islamist-drafted constitution approved in December and forming a "national salvation" government.
The recent constitution referendum had left the country polarized, with the secular and liberal opposition saying the charter could undermine political rights and sideline minorities.
Morsi, Egypt's first civilian president, has cancelled a trip to Ethiopia where he was to attend an African summit scheduled for Sunday.
He held an emergency meeting with the National Defence Council, which includes the ministers of defence, justice and information, to discuss the unrest in the country and how to hold accountable those responsible.
On Friday, Morsi appealed for calm and vowed that authorities would bring lawbreakers to justice.
"I call on all citizens to adhere to the noble principles of the Egyptian revolution in expressing opinion freely and peacefully," he said on his official Facebook page.