CAIRO Hundreds of soccer fans gathered in Cairo on Friday to demand justice for 74 people killed in a stadium stampede last year, as a court prepared to issue a verdict in the case.
Hostility between Egypt's police and hardcore football fans has simmered for years, but worsened after the disaster last February at the Port Said stadium during a match between Cairo's Al Ahly and local side al-Masry.
Many of those killed were crushed when panicked fans tried to escape from the stadium after a post-match pitch invasion by Masry supporters. Others fell or were thrown from terraces, witnesses said.
Many fans accused security forces of causing the disaster to punish them for taking a frontline role in the street revolt that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
A court is expected to rule on January 26 in the case brought against 61 people charged with murder and 12 others, including nine police officers and three al-Masry club officials, with helping cause the disaster.
Al Ahly fans marched to Cairo's Tahrir Square - the epicentre of the uprising against Mubarak - waving banners showing pictures of the dead and demanding justice for the "martyrs".
"We will either get justice for them or die like them," they chanted as they marched towards the square. "Death to everyone who plotted, killed and betrayed," declared a banner.
The verdict is due a day after the second anniversary of the uprising that swept Mubarak from power - an occasion expected to trigger protests against Mubarak's successor Mohamed Mursi and his Islamist allies.
(Reporting by Asmaa Waguih; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)