Videotape leads to fan charges

In the first case of its kind in Greece, the use of video evidence by police helped lead to 14 football fans being charged yesterday with involvement in violence before a first-division match in Athens last month. A court of first instance brought charges against seven Panionios and seven Olympiakos supporters over the part they allegedly played in a riot before the game between the two teams in Nea Smyrni on January 9. The riot led to one supporter suffering severe head injuries, 14 policemen being hurt, the game being postponed and Panionios’s home ground suffering extensive damage. The fans, one of whom is the head of an Olympiakos supporters club, have been charged with a variety of criminal offenses, including assault, illegal bearing of weapons, entering a sports ground without authorization and disturbing the peace. The crimes carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The suspects have to be tried within 30 days of being charged according to a sports-related law recently passed, which also deemed video evidence admissible in cases involving fan violence. This is the first time authorities have exercised the right to use video and CCTV footage to apprehend suspects since the law was voted in last September. So far, only two Olympiakos supporters have been tried in connection with the clashes. The pair, who were arrested during the riot, were given five-month suspended jail sentences and were ordered to present themselves at their local police station every time the Piraeus team plays a match. A soccer tribunal last week overturned the stiffest penalties ever handed out to Greek football clubs for fan violence, restoring three docked points to Olympiakos and Panionios and allowing the game to be replayed tomorrow. The decision sent the Piraeus club back to the top of the league. Both clubs, however, were ordered to play four home games behind closed doors and Olympiakos was fined 300,000 euros, while Panionios had to pay out 100,000 euros.

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