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Dozens of Croatian football fans appear in court after AEK Athens supporter dies in night of mayhem

Football fans, mostly from Croatia, covering their faces as they are escorted by police from Athens Police Headquarters.
Football fans, mostly from Croatia, covering their faces as they are escorted by police from Athens Police Headquarters. Copyright AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
Copyright AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
By Euronews with AP
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Youths face murder charge as police set up roadblocks and border checks to stop other suspects from leaving the country.


Nearly 100 Croatian football fans appeared in court on Wednesday to face charges that include murder and membership of a criminal organisation over their alleged involvement in deadly fan violence. 

The handcuffed youths appeared before an investigative magistrate a day after a 29-year-old Greek fan was stabbed to death outside AEK Athens’ stadium.

The Champions League qualifier against Dinamo Zagreb was postponed following the violence.

Athens court officials said the magistrate issued the blanket charges against all 103 suspects, including 97 Croatian nationals. 

The indictments also included charges of multiple assault and illegal possession and use of explosive material. The murder-related charge is likely to be dropped for most of the defendants as the investigation proceeds.

Amateur video of the attack showed dozens of youths wielding bats and iron bars running past the stadium, as flares and petrol bombs exploded. Ten people were injured and four remain hospitalised.

Elsewhere in Greece, police set up highway roadblocks and additional border checks to search for more suspects. Authorities announced the arrest of six Croatian nationals as they attempted to flee the country. Five of the suspects were detained in the northwestern port of Igoumenitsa as they prepared to board a ferry bound for Italy, while the sixth was arrested on a bus bound for Albania. 

The vice-president of the European Commission, Greek politician Margaritis Schinas, condemned “the horrible violence” that occurred at AEK's stadium. 

Greek Public Order Minister Giannis Oikonomou said the police had made “tragic errors” in failing to stop the travelling Croatian supporters and failing to act on information that clashes were likely. 

He has dismissed calls from opposition parties to resign and suspended seven police officers, including several in senior positions, pending an investigation and their reassignment or dismissal.

Outside AEK’s Opap Arena, fans set up tributes to the supporter who was killed — identified by family members as Michalis Katsouris from a town near Athens — leaving flowers and candles at the site where he died of a stab wound.

AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
Candles and flowers lie where the fan died.AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

AEK says it has called on European football's governing body, UEFA, to impose “immediate and severe punishment” on Dinamo Zagreb, expressing disappointment that the qualifier will go ahead in Zagreb later this month.

“How is it possible that following the brutal murder of Michalis by a gang of vicious criminals from Croatia, for AEK Athens to enter the field and play against this team?” AEK said. “Will any of his killers be in the stands?”

The Croatian government and Dinamo have both strongly condemned that attacks in Athens. However, the Zagreb club defended its actions, insisting it has cooperated with authorities, and rejected calls from AEK for its expulsion from European competitions.

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