Nearly a hundred football hooligans from Croatia have been detained and are facing gang-related charges following a night of violence, which resulted in the murder of a Greek football fan in Athens.
The violence and subsequent murder occurred on Monday night ahead of the UEFA Champions League qualifier between AEK Athens and GNK Dinamo Zagreb outside of the AEK stadium.
On Wednesday, a group of suspects appeared before an investigative magistrate in the Greek capital. They were seen handcuffed, with many having pulled their shirts over their heads to hide their identities.
Football hooligans appear in court after murder of AEK fan in Athens
According to court authorities, the judge levied blanket charges against all 103 individuals involved. Of those charged, 97 are citizens of Croatia. The charges encompassed offenses such as assault, unlawful possession, and use of explosive substances. As the investigation progresses, the murder-related charges are expected to be dismissed for a majority of the accused.
Amateur footage of the incident revealed numerous young people carrying bats and metal bars, running near the stadium while flares and Molotov cocktails ignited. The attack resulted in ten injuries, with four individuals still being treated in the hospital.
In other parts of Greece, law enforcement established roadblocks on highways and increased border inspections in the pursuit of additional suspects. Officials reported the apprehension of six Croatian citizens who were trying to escape the country. Among them, five were captured in the northwestern port of Igoumenitsa, where they were about to board an Italy-bound ferry. The sixth individual was arrested while on a bus en route to Albania.
UEFA prohibited fans from attending both matches of the third-round qualifying fixture due to security worries. The governing body of European football stated that the disturbances led to the postponement of the game, a choice reached in cooperation with local authorities.
“UEFA deplores in the strongest possible terms the appalling incidents that took place in Athens last night and resulted in the loss of a life,” said UEFA on Tuesday.
“While expressing our deepest sympathy to the family of the victim, to AEK Athens FC and its fans, we would like to reiterate that violence has no place in our sport and we expect that those responsible for this terrible act be arrested and consigned to justice in the shortest delay,” the statement also said.
GNK Dinamo also issued a statement denouncing the violence. “GNK Dinamo strongly condemns the riots that took place last night in Athens,” said the Croatian football team.
“Such events are not in line with the values and ethics we promote as a club and community,” the statement continued. “We express our deep concern over this incident. GNK Dinamo would like to express its sincere condolences to the family of the deceased.”
Football hooliganism in Greece has been a pervasive problem over the past several years. In 2022, the Greek government introduced tougher sentencing for crimes related to football violence.
The maximum sentence was increased from six months to five years after yet another fatal stabbing of a Greek football fan during a brawl between supporters of Thessaloniki’s rival teams Aris and PAOK.