Middle East

Egypt's football deaths trial opens amid chaotic scenes

The trial of dozens of people charged in connection with Egypt's worst football violence has opened in Cairo amid chaotic scenes.

The defendants, including nine police officers, disrupted proceedings as they chanted to proclaim their innocence and protests took place outside.

They are charged with murder or negligence over the violence.

At least 74 people died after clashes erupted following a match in the city of Port Said on 1 February.

Conspiracy theory

On Monday, the defendants appeared in the same courtroom at the Cairo Police College where former President Hosni Mubarak was put on trial last year.

The proceedings then quickly descended into chaos, as some of the accused jumped on benches in the court cage and waved their fists at the prosecutors.

"We either get our rights or we die," they chanted.

Meanwhile, relatives of the victims held up pictures of their loved ones, and some of them wept, the BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo reports.

For a time the session was adjourned, but it was resumed for the charges to be read out.

Outside the court building, supporters of the two clubs involved in the disaster also demonstrated.

February's game was between the home team, al-Masry, and Cairo's club, al-Ahly.

Al-Masry won 3-1, but its fans later invaded the pitch, attacking al-Ahly players and fans.

The two clubs are long-standing rivals whose games have required a large security presence.

Rumours that the police had failed to intervene sparked days of clashes across the country in which a further 16 people died.

There were also claims that fans had been allowed to take knives and other weapons into the stadium.

Many Egyptians believe the tragedy was orchestrated as a way of taking revenge for the role played by al-Ahly supporters in last year's revolution that ousted Mr Mubarak, our correspondent says.

In the days after the game, large protests blaming the military government for the deaths were held outside the interior ministry in Cairo.

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