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Published: Thursday February 6, 2014 MYT 10:25:02 PM
Updated: Thursday February 6, 2014 MYT 10:26:01 PM

Egyptian court orders retrial in soccer stadium disaster

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian court on Thursday ordered the retrial of 21 people sentenced to death in a politically charged case for involvement in deadly football stadium violence in 2012, judicial sources said.

The Cassation Court accepted the appeal by the fans found guilty in January 2013 of taking part in the Port Said stadium disaster, in which 74 people died on February 1 2012.

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.

The death sentences were handed down during ousted President Mohamed Mursi's year in office - but since then the political, and therefore judicial, landscape has reversed, with the case now being considered in a different light.

Fans of the visiting team, Al Ahly, accused the Interior Ministry of deliberately causing the disaster in revenge for their role in toppling autocrat Hosni Mubarak in an uprising in 2011.

At the time, the incident deepened frustration that a police force weakened by the revolt seemed unable to protect the population.

But the Interior Ministry has made a comeback since the army toppled Mursi in July. Policemen and troops are lionised on state and private television channels.

Security forces have cracked down hard on Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood, killing about 1,000 and arresting the Islamist movement's top leaders.

(Reporting by Maggie Fick; Editing by Michael Georgy and Alison Williams)

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