Justice Minister Giorgos Savvides said on Friday that the wrongful arrest of three Omonia fans for hurling objects during a match with rival team Apoel on Monday was an ‘unfortunate circumstance’, as debate swirled around the cards, used to identify football fans.
The fans were identified using two different methods by two different organisations and it was this that caused the mix-up, the minister told a press conference.
“This meeting is necessary to clarify the procedure followed in relation to the Omonia-Apoel game and to enable all stakeholders to submit their views on any gaps that may have occurred and/or exist as well as on the measures needed to correct these gaps.”
Fan cards are issued by the Cyprus Sports Organisation (KOA, which files the information into a database). In this case, the president of KOA Andreas Michaelides, said the CCTV footage from the field when an incident occurs is passed from the police to KOA, who then identify the individuals based on their registry.
Savvides added the police identified the individuals hurling the objects through the CCTV footage, and that the confusion arose when the police and the officials at the stadium examined the information and sent it to KOA.
“It certainly seems that there have been some unfortunate circumstances, as can happen in any case when a new measure is fully implemented, and it is the responsibility of everyone involved in this process to ensure that similar incidents do not occur again in the future,” he said. “The purpose of the fan card is only served when it comes to identifying those involved in violent or unsportsmanlike behavior.”
Michaelides called for an investigation into the matter of the match, as the organisation only examines the details given to them by police.
He threw the blame on the authorities saying they gave the organisation different details one day and the other ones the next day.
The lawyer of the three men, Lambros Pieris, condemned the actions against his clients, blaming the fan card for their wrongful arrests.
“The question is, how can they [police] arrest the wrong people, when they now have all their details, and proper CCTV footage?” he asked.
Pieris questioned how the authorities made such an error since the introduction of the fan card.
On Friday, the three men, who were correctly identified as the suspects in throwing objects onto the pitch were brought to court, where it was decided they would appear again on January 31.
The court also decided the fans be banned from all stadiums until the case is settled.
On Thursday, three out of four original Omonia fans arrested for hurling objects on the pitch during the match were released.
Later in the day, and following the release of the three fans, reports said that police arrested two more.
In the dying moments of the game, the referee awarded a penalty to Apoel, which sparked outrage on the stands even though the player missed, and the game ended in a 0-0 draw.