Port Said: A thorn in Muslim Brotherhood’s side
CAIRO - Thousands of Egyptians on Sunday closed down government offices and factories in the Suez Canal city of Port Said, demanding justice for dozens of people killed in clashes with police, witnesses said.
Demonstrators also shut down schools and banks and blocked a main railway route, but their protests did not impact traffic through the strategic Suez Canal, a canal official said.
The marchers were demanding justice for at least 40 protesters killed in clashes with police in late January after a court sentenced 21 soccer fans from the city to death over a deadly football riot last year.
In February 2012, 74 people, mostly supporters of the Cairo Al-Ahly club, were killed in a football riot in Port Said.
Home fans were held to blame, with Al-Ahly supporters pledging civil disobedience in Cairo if the court acquitted the Port Said residents.
Last month's violence in Port Said and two other Suez Canal cities prompted President Mohamed Morsi to call in the military and declare emergency law there.
January's clashes coincided with the second anniversary of a popular uprising that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak, bringing in a period of military rule and then the Islamist Morsi's election last June.
Morsi has since had to contend with mass rallies led by a secular opposition and almost weekly violent protests by opponents of his Muslim Brotherhood movement.
A security source said on Saturday that Egypt will arm low ranking policemen with pistols, after they held protests demanding weapons and better work conditions amid a spike in violent crime.
Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim agreed to import 100,000 pistols, the source said, after almost a week of protests by policemen.
Egyptian police officers and some conscripts are equipped with side arms and sometimes assault rifles, but the lowest ranking policemen are unarmed.
Crime spiralled in Egypt after an uprising overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in early 2011, leaving the reviled interior ministry in tatters.
About 30 policemen died during the 18-day uprising, in which police stations were torched, and at least 138 have been killed since, according to ministry figures released in January.
On Saturday, police and civilian mourners at the funeral of a police captain who died the previous night in a gunfight, badly beat a man they believed was involved in the shooting, witnesses said.
Footage on Youtube showed pistol wielding men holding the bloodied suspect on a pick up truck, in the province of Beni Suef, south of Cairo.
The governor of Beni Suef, Maher Beibers, told the Egyptian ONTV channel that he was later taken to hospital, from where he escaped.