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Cyprus

Remand for football hooligans who hurled toilet seats at fire fighters

Justice minister has pledged zero tolerance of football violence

By Evie Andreou

NINE OUT of the 41 APOEL fans arrested in connection with violence during the APOEL-AEL football match in Limassol on Sunday were remanded in custody for three days on Monday.

The nine, aged between 16 and 32, face 14 charges including disturbance of peace, arson, assault and battery against officers, carrying dangerous objects and drug possession.

The other 32 were charged in writing while police issued an arrest warrant against a 28-year-old man identified at the scene but not yet detained.

According to police reports, at half time APOEL fans set on fire stadium seats, a fire escape exit and a canteen warehouse causing extensive damage. They also hurled objects at officers, injuring four.

Police spokesman Andreas Angelides said that some 100 APOEL fans were hosed down by a fire service truck as they tried to prevent fire fighters from putting out the fire. They formed a human chain around the fire and hurled seats, flares, smoke bombs, stones, and ceramic tiles and toilet bowls they had detached from the stadium’s toilets at the fire truck.

It was heard in court that the nine were arrested after they were identified by officers. Police are trying to connect the other 32 arrested in the incident by securing testimonies and through the stadium’s closed circuit surveillance cameras.

The 41 were arrested after the end of the game that ended 2-1 to AEL, when police led all six buses that were to transport the 150 APOEL fans back to Nicosia into the stadium and searched every person one by one.

An important factor for the arrest and prosecution of the nine was the fact that their clothes were wet, Limassol court heard.

In the buses, an expendable baton, a folding knife, several flares, a bag containing what is believed to be cannabis, a three-metre chain and a slingshot were found, police said.

The 41 arrested are to be banned from sports events, reports said.

“We will not allow the football fields to become battle fields for any junkie or drunk,” Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Monday, adding that there had been a recent drop in football violence.

“It was no surprise that trouble was begun by those who have been absent from football matches due to the government’s decision to introduce the fan card,” Nicolaou said.

Organised football club fans said last year that they would boycott football matches in protest against the fan card the government wants to launch as part of its efforts to clamp down on hooliganism since it will end anonymity. Presumably, the importance of Sunday’s match enticed fans back to the stands.

Nicolaou said that the government has announced a tender competition and that the goal is for the card to be implemented in time for the next football season.

“We are determined to utilise these means; we are determined to show zero tolerance of these episodes” Nicolaou said.

“Let them receive exemplary punishment,” the head of APOEL Prodromos Petrides told Sigmalive condemning some of his club’s fans’ behaviour.

He said that he had received many messages from ‘genuine’ APOEL fans who asked for the perpetrators’ punishment.

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