Cairo: The turmoil in Port Saeed started on January 26, the day a court in the city on the northern edge of the Suez Canal handed down death sentences against 21 mostly Port Saeed residents over their involvement in a deadly February 2012 soccer riot in the city that killed 74 people, mostly fans of a rival Cairo soccer club, Al Ahly.
Following the verdicts, Port Saeed residents said they were used as scapegoats to defuse a possible eruption of violence in the capital, Cairo, Mursi’s seat of power. Ahead of the court’s decision, die-hard Al Ahly fans had warned of “pools of blood” if the sentences were light.
In the first wave of violence after the verdicts, more than 40 people died in the city. Port Saeed residents allege Mursi gave the green light for excessive use of force by the police.
Mursi then imposed a curfew and a state of emergency in Port Saeed and two other Suez Canal cities, deploying the military to impose law and order. However, the orders were defied by the residents, who held night rallies during curfew hours until the measure was eased.
The city continued with a civil disobedience campaign and general strikes, for over two weeks, demanding Mursi open an investigation into the latest killings.
Violence flared anew on Sunday, when Port Saeed residents took to the streets following reports that other defendants still on trial in the deadly soccer riot were moved from the local prison ahead of their March 9 verdicts.
Egypt is in a deep crisis amid stark polarization between the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and the mostly liberal and secular opposition parties, which accuse the Islamists of monopolizing power two years after the 2011 overthrow of longtime autocratic President Hosni Mubarak.
The Islamists argue that they came to power through the ballot box in the first free elections after the uprising that ousted Mubarak.
The Port Saeed unrest comes only a few weeks ahead of the parliamentary elections, which are due to start in April and which the opposition is boycotting.