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"Gegen Nazis" banner is not a crime - 4 "Frénétiks" cleared of all charges

On Thursday last week, the 4 fans of FC Metz were finally cleared of all charges

and will even be compensated by the French state. They had been arrested and banned from the stadium for having displayed a "Gegen Nazis" banner (German for "against nazis") with a fist smashing a swastika.

 

The 4 fans are members of the ultra group Horda Frénétik, founded in 1997, the members of which have always been very much known for their strong commitment against racism and discrimination in football in France. On 27 January 2011, more than four months after they were arrested at their home game which took place on 22 October 2010, the four fans were tried at the local court in Metz.

About 45 people went to the trial in solidarity with them and squeezed themselves in a small court room. Amongst them were friends and family, but also two members of the Norwegian fan club Klanen from Valerenga who had followed the FSE call for support and made their way from Oslo to Metz to show their support for the Metz fans together with FSE Coordinator Daniela Wurbs. Apart from that, the case had attracted a several journalists and TV teams of local and national media which also tensely awaited the result of the trial.

This audience and the accused then heard the bill of indictment read out by the judge: according to the accusation of the French police who had arrested the fans after their home game on 22 October 2010, and the head of security of FC Metz, the 4 young men were told to be guilty of having displayed a banner which, according to the respective paragraph in the French law, "would show a symbol at a sport event which would reflect a racist or xenophobic ideology". Furthermore, the local police had argued that the word "GEGEN" (German for "against") on the banner was supposed to be an abbreviation for another fans' group of FC Metz called "Génération Grenard" which is known as right-wing group.

This rather bizarre argument was immediately dismantled by the lawyer of the four Horda members, Raphaël-Anthony Chaya, who showed the banner to the judge at the beginning of his speech, folded it several times and simply wondered rhetorically how the word GE-GEN could potentially be seen as abbreviation ofValerenga_Supporters_in_Metz a group called GEnération - GREnard... even given that the French police could not understand German.

He then continued his passionate intervention around the question whether and how young people can and should be supported in their commitment against racism and fascism in society and in the stadium in France and by the French state and that this case could decide how the French state wants to be seen in other countries with regards to this. To underline his statements and to demonstrate the international significance of the case, Chaya also used statements and expertise provided by FSE and the FARE partner LICRA on the usage of the symbol in other countries and mentioned the presence of the FSE members from abroad in the court room.

After a relatively short waiting period after the end of Caya's speech the judge announced that the four fans were cleared of all charges against them and that each of the four will receive a small compensation from the French state.

Certainly the financial compensation wasn't very important for the accused fans but together with them being cleared, we at FSE consider this an important symbolic decision for all fans that oppose racism and discrimination in football, whether in France or elsewhere! Anti-discrimination is not a crime!

And thanks very much again to the two Klanen members who came to Metz and all FSE members and football supporters across Europe who have supported the case and shown their solidarity!

Below you can find further links to media articles on the case:

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