April 19, 2015 / 9:39 AM / in 3 years

Egypt court seeks death sentence for 11 in soccer stadium case: TV

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian court on Sunday took a step towards imposing the death penalty on 11 men for involvement in deadly soccer stadium violence in 2012, in a court session shown on television.

Defendants react as they are seen behind bars during the hearing at a court in Cairo, April 19, 2015. REUTERS/Al Youm Al Saabi Newspaper

The judge referred the sentencing to Egypt’s Grand Mufti, the country’s most senior religious authority, a step towards the death penalty, which could be imposed at a later court hearing on May 30.

Soccer matches are often a flashpoint for violence in the country but the Port Said incident was Egypt’s worst ever soccer disaster, killing more than 70 fans and injuring at least 1,000.

Many of those killed were crushed when panicked fans tried to escape from the stadium after a post-match pitch invasion by supporters of the local side al-Masry. Others fell or were thrown from terraces, witnesses said.

In January 2013, a court sentenced 21 people to death in the case, but after more than a year, the High Court overturned the sentences and ordered a retrial.

The Grand Mufti’s decision is not binding but referral is needed in order to impose a death sentence.

The case could be subject to a further appeal which could take several years.

Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad and Ahmed Tolba, Writing by Sylvia Westall. Editing by Jane Merriman

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