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Michigan man charged with murder in death of soccer referee

(Reuters) - A soccer player accused of punching a referee and fatally injuring him during a weekend game in a Detroit suburb has been charged with second-degree murder, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Bassel Abdul-Amir Saad, 36, had been charged with assaulting referee John Bieniewicz, 44, during a game in Livonia, Michigan, but the charges were upgraded following his death, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement.

"The entire soccer world mourns with the family upon the death of John Bieniewicz," Worthy said. "This is especially tragic because it happened as the World Cup dominates our television screens."

Prosecutors said Saad became upset at Bieniewicz, a long time soccer referee licensed at all levels, when the referee was about to eject him from an adult league game on June 29. Bieniewicz died two days later.

The Wayne County medical examiner determined that Bieniewicz had died from blunt force trauma to the neck and ruled his death a homicide. Saad has been held on a $1 million bond since the referee's death, prosecutors said.

Saad's lawyer has said there were questions about the circumstances of the incident and the cause of the man's injuries.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Sandra Maler)