French courts convicts 6 English soccer fans for rioting

AP News
|
Posted: Jun 13, 2016 3:20 PM
French courts convicts 6 English soccer fans for rioting

MARSEILLE, France (AP) — A Marseille court convicted six English soccer fans Monday and handed prison sentences ranging from one-to-three months to five of them for involvement in rioting at the European Championship.

The swift trials and sentencing appeared aimed at sending a message to potential hooligans for the rest of the month-long tournament being played in cities throughout France.

Defense lawyer Henri Viguier said the sentences were a consequence of a climate of fear surrounding Euro 2016 and "in another context, the sentences would have been totally different."

At the same court, a French man was sentenced to a year in prison and an Austrian was given a five-month prison term, also for involvement in the three days of rioting that left the streets of Marseille littered with broken glass and furniture ripped from terraces.

One English man was given a suspended one-month sentence and all the foreigners were banned from France for two years.

There were no Russians on trial, despite a Marseille prosecutor earlier in the day blaming "highly trained" Russian thugs for the worst of the violence in the cobbled streets of the city's Old Port and around the Stade Velodrome.

Alex Booth, a chef who spent his 20th birthday in a French cell after his arrest and wore an England shirt in court, clasped his head in his hands and looked imploringly at his father as a judge sentenced him to two months.

His father, Chris Booth, shouted "miscarriage" as his son was led from court and called the decision a "disgrace." He said French authorities were "making a scapegoat of a poor kid like Alex" and said they should "find the real thugs."

Earlier Monday, riot police union spokesman Dominique Mesquida said law enforcement officers knew the Russia-England game was a high-risk match, but were not specifically warned to be on the lookout for Russian thugs.

"We weren't told, 'Be very careful, you're going to face ultra-violent Russian groups,'" said Mesquida, a representative of the Unite SGP Police-FO union for the CRS riot police in the Marseille region.

Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said the Russian hooligans appeared well-trained and intent on attacking England fans.

The comments painted a worrying picture of well-organized, violent Russian hooligans roaming the streets and deliberately attacking England fans as riot police were almost powerless to stop them. Russia's next match is Wednesday in the northern city of Lille, only 30 kilometers (20 miles) from Lens, where England plays the following day.

Robin told reporters that about 35 people were injured in three days of clashes around Saturday's match at the Stade Velodrome, and that one England fan remained in a critical but stable condition. Brice said almost all the injured were British.

Twenty people were arrested as police struggled to control running street battles between fans in the city's Old Port and on roads leading to the stadium.

Robin said about 150 Russian hooligans evaded attempts to keep them out of France during the month-long tournament, though some others were stopped at Marseille's airport and expelled from the country.

The Russian hooligans "were prepared for hyper-quick and hyper-violent intervention, and that's where the difficulty came from in proceeding with their arrests," Robin said. "I will not say they are violence professionals, but they were highly trained."

___

Margaid Quioc in Marseille and Associated Press writers Raphael Satter and John Leicester in Paris and contributed to this report.