The protesters were angered by the death sentences handed to 21 men for their involvement in last year’s football stadium disaster in the city, which killed 74.

Spectators were crushed in the disaster on 1 February last year after the match between Cairo’s al-Ahly and Port Said’s local team, al-Masri.

Today’s disturbances were sparked when Judge Sobhy Abdel Maguid announced that the men would be “referred to the Mufti,” a phrase meaning execution, as in Egypt all death sentences require approval from the country’s top religious authority.

Families of victims in the Cairo court cheered and wept for joy at the announcement.

A total of 73 people were standing trial, with more verdicts due on 9 March.

One relative of a victim in the court shouted: “God is greatest.” Outside al-Ahly’s stadium, supporters also cheered. Fans had threatened fresh violence unless the death penalty was given.

But in Port Said, al-Masry fans protested the decision outside the city’s prison, where most of the convicted men are being held. Residents rampaged through the streets and some tried to storm the prison, angry that people from their city had been blamed, with gunshots reported.

At least 22 people are reported dead, two of them policemen, and state television quotes the Health Ministry saying more than 200 people were also injured.

Armoured vehicles and military police were deployed on the streets, with the state news agency quoting a general saying the aim was to “establish calm and stability in Port Said and to protect public institutions”.

Unrest has been growing across Egypt since rallies marking the second anniversary of the protests which ended Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorial 30-year reign.

Protesters are unhappy that the revolutionary fervour has since dissipated, alleging continued police brutality. President Mohamed Morsi, elected in June last year, stoked unrest with his decision to fast-track an Islamist-tinged constitution rejected by his opponents.

Morsi’s supporters say their critics are ignoring democratic principles, after elections swept the Islamists to office.

Thousands took to the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and other cities yesterday.

Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who had tried to cross barbed-wire barriers outside the presidential palace in Cairo, state TV reported. Protesters’ tents were also dismantled and some burned.

Nine people were killed in yesterday’s violence, most in the port city of Suez, where the army has also been deployed.

In Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Mahmoud Suleiman, 22, said: “We want to change the president and the government. We are tired of this regime. Nothing has changed.”

“The protests will continue until we realise all the demands of the revolution – bread, freedom and social justice,” said Ahmed Salama, 28, a protester camped out with dozens of others in Tahrir.

In a statement in response to yesterday’s violence, Morsi said the state would not hesitate in “pursuing the criminals and delivering them to justice”. He urged Egyptians to respect the principles of the revolution by expressing views peacefully.

The president is due to meet later today with the National Defence Council to discuss the violence.

Riot kills 22 in Egypt after death sentences for football hooligans – The Independent
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