Five Celtic fans have been given jail sentences for attacking police officers when violence broke out in Amsterdam city centre ahead of a Champions League match.
A sixth suspect was acquitted when a judge at the city’s District Court found there was not enough evidence against him. Two of the men were jailed for two months, two others for six weeks and a fifth for one month. All five were released immediately pending an appeal. The court also awarded damages of €500 to one of six police officers who were injured in the incident and €250 each to three others.
The six men, aged 20 to 49, were arrested after trouble flared in Dam Square hours before Celtic played Ajax in a Champions League match on November 6. The court heard the incident was triggered when a group of Ajax supporters stole and ran off with a Celtic supporters’ flag. Videos posted on YouTube and shown in court showed the men grappling with plainclothes police officers who appeared to beat and kick them.
The judge said the fans had been on edge because of an incident the night before in the Old Sailor Cafe where Ajax fans launched an unprovoked attack on travelling supporters. He said the eruption of violence in Dam Square the next day was unacceptable and police were entitled to use force in restraining the feuding fans. He rejected an attempt by defence lawyer Christiaan Visser to have the case thrown out on the grounds that the level of force used was excessive. The judge admitted it was difficult to work out the exact course of events from the dossiers submitted by police and the video footage from the scene. But he ruled that there was enough evidence to convict five of the men on trial. He argued that they could have left the scene when the violence began, but chose to stay in Dam Square and used violence against police.
During Thursday’s hearing Mr Visser called for the six men to be freed, arguing they had been subjected to disproportionate violence by police officers dressed in plain clothes who mingled with the crowd. He also argued that the police statements were unreliable and failed to identify which supporters had been involved in the fracas. In statements the defendants said they were unaware the people they were fighting were police officers.
Two supporters, Andy Vance and Padraig Mullan, were detained in custody for more than two weeks in the lead-up to the court date. Police arrested 44 supporters during the incident, including 18 Celtic supporters. Twelve of the fans of the Parkhead club were previously released after being fined up to €500, while another ten were sent home before the game.
The force said six plainclothes officers were injured in the incident, which resulted in riot and mounted police attending Dam Square. The club have previously stated that they were investigating the incident and said that the violence came after their fans had been “subjected to a high degree of provocation”. On the eve of the match, a large number of masked Ajax supporters attacked Celtic supporters in the Old Sailor Cafe in the city’s red light district. Nine Dutch fans were arrested in the incident, which was caught on police CCTV.
Local TV station AT5 recorded an interview with a Celtic supporter who sustained injuries to his face. He said: “Police came right through the middle hitting everybody and anybody. If you weren’t quick to move out the way, that’s what you got.” An image of a police dog biting a Celtic fan in Dam Square was captured by an agency photographer. Mr Visser has said Vance and Mullan should be freed immediately and branded the Dutch police hooligans over the clashes.
The Netherlands Embassy in London said the public prosecution service in Holland had received “video footage and photographic material of the disturbances” which are being reviewed. It also said the Dutch police are “conducting an internal review of the incident.”
The Fans Against Criminalisation organised an evidence gathering session in Glasgow at the weekend to compile accounts from fans who were in Amsterdam during the violence that broke out between 5pm and 6pm. The group planned to submit information they compiled to the lawyers representing the Celtic fans at the trial.