Four fans of French side FC Metz were finally cleared of racist charges by a French court last week, despite having displayed an anti-racist banner. The four men, members of the ultra group Horda Frénétik, were arrested after displaying a banner in their home game in October against Angers depicting a fist smashing a swastika, carrying the message "Gegen Nazis" (Against Nazis).
They were arrested and charged with "showing a symbol at a sport event which would reflect a racist or xenophobic ideology". The four were banned from the stadium and the criminal proceedings took more than four months until they were cleared last week. Along with finally clearing their name, each of the fans will receive compensation from the French state.
The rather strange argument of the prosecution, that the word "Gegen" was a shortened version of another group of right wing fans (Génération Grenard) was quickly dismissed by the judge.
The fans were backed in the case by Football Supporters Europe (FSE) of which the FSF is a member, and fans from across the continent, including two members of an ultra group (pictured) who travelled all the way from Valerenga in Norway to offer their moral support to the group in court.
FSE were supported by Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) and the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme et l'Antisémitisme, or LICRA) in demonstrating to the court that the fans’ symbol was in fact an anti-racist one used widely across the continent.
Dani Wurbs of FSE said: "This is a great symbolic victory for all fans standing up against discrimination inside stadia across the continent, and it shows what can be achieved if anti-racist fans across Europe unite.
"We hope that this will send a clear signal to FC Metz, and to the other football clubs and governing bodies in France and elsewhere, that such fans’ commitment against discrimination in football is not a crime but should be supported by all means.
"We’re also glad that FSE’s public endorsement of the case, and the expertise provided on the usage of the symbol/banner in other countries together with FARE partner LICRA, could help the argument of the lawyer of the four Metz fans."
For more information Football Supporters Europe, visit their website. They, like the FSF, are free to join.
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