An Egyptian court has upheld death sentences on 21 Port Said football fans for their role in a stadium riot last year.

Some 74 people were killed and around 1,000 injured at the end of a match between Cairo’s Al Ahly and Al Masry, the local side, on February 1, 2012.

Spectators were crushed when panicked fans tried to get out the stadium after a pitch invasion by Port Said supporters.

In a live televised ruling, judge Sobhi Abdel-Maguid sitting at a Cairo court confirmed “the death penalty by hanging”.

The city’s former security chief, Major General Essam Samak, was jailed for 15 years along with another nine defendants.

A further five people were also sentenced to life imprisonment for the riot, while 28 others were acquitted.

The rest of the 73 defendants involved received shorter prison sentences.

The death sentences – originally handed down in January – have provoked deadly clashes in Port Said and Cairo.

The riot – the worst case of football violence in the country and the deadliest worldwide since 1996 – erupted after the home team Al Masry beat Egypt’s top club Al Ahly in the league fixture.

Subsequent protests have sparked fresh concerns about Egypt’s stability.

Political turmoil is sweeping across the country with demonstrators demanding concessions from President Mohamed Mursi, while others want him removed altogether, saying his Muslim Brotherhood is monopolising power.

Hi government is struggling to halt the slide in law and order, hampered by a strike by some protesting police.

At least eight people have been killed in Port Said this week, including three police officers.