Cyprus Mail

MPs urged to vote through hooligan bill

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou addressing the parliamentary hearing on the football hooliganism bill

By George Psyllides

STAMPING out anonymity is an essential measure for legislation aimed at tackling football related violence, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said yesterday, as parliament wrapped up discussion of the bill.

“We urge that the bill is approved as a package since tackling these phenomena can be done through a comprehensive package of measures that must be put in place,” Nicolaou said after a meeting of the House legal affairs committee.

The bill provides for identity cards to be issued to fans who want to attend football games.

Fans oppose the measure, suggesting it is a way for the state to keep tabs on them.

Nicolaou said the reactions of those hiding behind anonymity did not justify any difference in thinking.

“Any delay in approving the legislation will allow certain people to continue with behaviours like those we saw (over the weekend) during a team’s training session,” the minister said. “It will also allow those who react, to continue with the behaviours they displayed in recent years, covered behind anonymity and the mob.”

On Saturday, Anorthosis fans interrupted the team’s first training session by hurling smoke grenades on the pitch and missiles at members of the management.

Nicolaou said the government had done its duty by preparing a comprehensive bill and now it was the parliament’s turn to do the same.

“From then on, everyone should assume their responsibility in enforcing the measures, which must be put in place as a whole so that we can tackle such problems,” Nicolaou said.

Committee chairman, DISY MP Sotiris Sampson, said parties will now brief their parliamentary groups and tomorrow morning the committee will reconvene to decide whether to put the bill to a vote on Thursday.

Police chief Zacharias Chrysostomou, asked later in the day whether police stands behind the bill, said that he fully supports it as it is, adding that it will help police in its attempt to tackle hooliganism.

“I wish we didn’t have to pass such a bill. Unfortunately we have to adapt to present circumstances and equip the state and the police with the proper legal tools to battle and prevent violence in the stadium grounds,” said Chrysostomou.

The police chief was also asked whether he is considering withdrawing forces and not to police at matches, in case the bill isn’t passed, to which he said, “it is our duty to be there. Surely, reaching the point where matches are not policed isn’t our priority. This is something we will have to talk about, if the need arises,” he said.

Chrysostomou stressed that he will enforce the new legislation meticulously, asking from all competent authorities to play their part in dealing with hooliganism.

“It is in that spirit that the House should set voting on the bill as its highest priority. I’m sure that all citizens not only want but actually demand that MPs rise up to the challenge, so we can all put an end to this unacceptable phenomenon and not reach the point when he have to mourn victims.”

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