ATHENS – Croatian police said they arrested nine soccer fans sought on European warrants after a deadly hooligan brawl in Athens that left one man dead and saw Greek police round up 102 suspects.
Greece issued arrest warrants for 10 fans of Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb soccer club that came to Athens in a caravan and attacked fans from the AEK team, the Croatians said belong to the infamous Bad Blue Boys hooligans.
One remains at large, Croatia’s Justice Ministry said in a statement it had been informed of the warrants by the Croatian police, the arrests coming despite complaints from President Zoran Milanović that Croatians were held in Greece.
Dozens of other Croatian soccer fans already have been detained in Greece over the violence, during which Michalis Katsouris, 29, was stabbed to death outside AEK Athens’ stadium. No suspect has been named in the killing.
Amateur video of the attack showed dozens of youths wielding bats and iron bars running past the stadium as flares and fire bombs exploded, no Greek riot police or squads on the scene until a half hour later. Ten people were injured.
Milanović was angry over the detentions in Greece and threatened to round up 100 Greeks in his country on false pretenses, suggesting he would hold them hostage to get his countrymen released.
He said the detention of the Croatians was unlawful and that at least some of them don’t belong to the Bad Blue boys notorious for violence and neo-Nazi leanings believed to have led the assault.
Holding them, he said, was a political act, reported EuroNews as he resumed his attack earlier in August on Greek authorities after attempts were made to ratchet down tensions by other officials.
The Bad Blue Boys is a hooligan group affiliated with Dinamo Zagreb football team but Milanović said being a member of a violent organization isn’t a crime in and of itself.
“I don’t see the rule of law here, this is massive retaliation against an ethnic or national group, they gathered up all the Croatian fans and put them in jail,” Milanović said of Greece.
“They are prisoners of war there, then let them be treated according to the rules of war and we will exchange people, we will round up a hundred Greeks for something, because they littered with pieces of paper,” he continued.
He said the hooligans didn’t go to Greece for trouble although they were found with weapons, not to kill “or else they would not have been able to cross the border” and that this amounts to “political hogwash.”
Despite a ban on their entry, Greek police allowed them to come into the country and cross all the way from the west into Athens, with Citizen Protection Minister Yiannis Economou blaming the police but taking no responsibility.
The Croatians denied they were hooligans and that they came to Greece to start a brawl with AEK fans, saying they intended to go to a different game although their team was to play the Greek side.
Several of the Croatians claimed they are not even members of the Bad Blue Boys and that they were arrested because of their citizenship, the news site said, as they tried to separate themselves from what happened.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)