Fast-track justice for Euro 2012 hooligans

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Fourteen football hooligans have been convicted in fast-track trials for their role in violent clashes when Poland and Russia met in an emotionally charged European Championship match in Warsaw.

The trials are meant to show that Poland is serious about its policy of zero tolerance for violence as it co-hosts Euro 2012.

Seven Poles were convicted on Wednesday and seven others yesterday, Warsaw district court spokesman Wojciech Malek said.

They were found guilty of assaulting police officers and “taking part in illegal gatherings”. Street gatherings are considered illegal when participants join them with an obvious intent to be violent.

Some received prison sentences of various lengths while others got suspended sentences, he said.

Courts plan further fast-track trials for dozens more in the coming days.

Police detained 184 people for taking part in the clashes. Some broke out before the match when thousands of Russian fans marched to the National Stadium waving national flags and chanting “Russia, Russia”.

The mass expression of Russian patriotism in Warsaw’s capital was provocative to Poles, who still deeply resent Moscow’s imposition of communism in the country during the Cold War.

Many Poles felt authorities shouldn’t have allowed the Russians to march as a group in Warsaw given the historical wounds, and some of the fighting was sparked by Polish hooligans who attacked Russians.

Separately, a group of young Poles also attacked police during the match with bottles, prompting officers to respond with rubber bullets and tear gas. Three dozen people were injured in the violence – 19 civilians and 17 police officers.

Police detained 156 Poles, 25 Russians, a Spaniard, a Hungarian and an Algerian for the fighting around the game which finished 1-1.

Before the championship got under way, the country had put hundreds of judges on stand-by and moved up to 600 inmates out of prisons in cities hosting Euro 2012 games.