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Retrial for those accused in Port Said football stadium riot

Egypt has ordered retrials for all 64 defendants accused in the February 2012 Port Said stadium riot, according to state-run newspaper Al-Ahram. Nine appeals from defendants were also rejected.

The court's decision on Thursday means that 21 people sentenced to death - as well as 28 people found not guilty - for their involvement in the deadly football violence that killed 74 people will be retried. Seventy-three people in total were accused for their roles in the riots, including policeman and sports officials.

Most of the people who died in the riots were crushed by panicked fans attempting to leave the stadium or were thrown or fell from the terraces following the match between the local side al-Masry and visiting Cairo team Al-Ahly on Feburary 1, 2012.

After the final whistle, al-Masry fans invaded the pitch and started attacking visiting fans and players. Witnesses reported seeing fans being stabbed with knives and pushed from the top of the stadium.

Controversial origins

Exactly why the incident became so deadly remains disputed. Al-Ahly fans, whose Ultras played a front-line role in the street protest battles that helped topple longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011, accuse the Interior Ministry of instigating the bloodshed as an act of revenge.

Among the charges for those implicated in the violence were premeditated murder, negligence and possession of weapons in connection with the riots.

The initial verdict's announcement in Port Said

led to clashes

between local residents and police in which a further 40 people were killed.

The Egyptian Premier League, the country's top flight football league, was suspended immediately after the Port Said disaster. It resumed again in 2013, only to go into hiatus once more following the June protests that led to

former President Mohammed Morsi's overthrow

. The league resumed play for the current season in December.

dr/mkg (Reuters, dpa)

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