Twenty-five British football fans are due to appear in a Portuguese court at the beginning of next month after being summoned to the Algarve, where they will be tried for their alleged part in
rioting in the city of Albufeira during the Euro 2004 football championships a decade ago.
A hearing has been scheduled for 1 July at Albufeira court and, under Portuguese law, the 25 fans are expected to attend proceedings in person.
Back in 2004, four dozen England fans faced a judge for rioting in Albufeira on 15 and 16 June. Ten fans were immediately deported, while several others agreed to leave soon after.
A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) told The Portugal News that this latest development is the continuation of a previous trial, and “is intended to bring to judgement other individuals who could not be located, notified or summoned” at the time of the first trial.
“An investigation has been completed and the Public Prosecutor has decided that there is strong enough evidence to make an accusation”, it was explained.
The PGR further clarified that, “in Portugal, the rule is that the defendant should appear at the trial”, but the hearing could go ahead “without the presence of the defendant, in exceptional cases, such as where it was not possible to notify that person.”
The Attorney General’s Office further confirmed that the charges date back to 16 June 2004.
At the heart of the issue, the PGR said, is “the verification of the crime of riot participation”, punishable under Article 302 of the Portuguese Penal Code.
According to Article 302, “Anyone who takes part in mutiny during which violence against persons or against property is collectively committed is punishable with imprisonment of up to one year or a fine equivalent to 120 days, if a more severe penalty is not applicable by virtue of another legal provision.
“If the offender has caused or directed the riot, they shall be punished with imprisonment of up to three years, or a fine”, it reads.
The law also states that there will be no punishment if the person involved “has withdrawn from the mutiny by order or admonition of authority without having committed or provoked violence.”
In a statement sent to The Portugal News, the European governing body of football UEFA said it has “no comment to make” on the fans being brought back to Portugal, “as this case lies within the competence of the national courts.”
This latest and somewhat surprising development takes place a decade after scores of England fans were detained by Portuguese police for going on a rampage in Albufeira during the European football championship in June 2004.
During the tournament, Albufeira saw two consecutive nights of clashes in which a baying mob of football fans threw bottles, glasses, tables and chairs at local bars and police.
Up to 400 fans were suspected of being involved in the troubles.
Riot police with dogs and horses were called in to quash the skirmishes, in which at least a dozen people were injured and widespread damage was caused.
Recalling the riots of 2004, a GNR spokesperson told The Portugal News this week that some British residents were also involved in the unrest.
The police source recalled that on 15 June 2004, fourteen citizens were arrested following the rioting, and a further 34 citizens were arrested a day later, on 16 June 2004.
The majority of the arrests involved Britons, but reports at the time claimed one Portuguese national and one Russian were also arrested.
Following the arrests, some fans complained that the Portuguese authorities had been “heavy-handed” in dealing with the clashes, and they had been mistreated while in Portuguese police custody.
Portuguese police denied using unnecessary force against English football fans and neglecting some of those arrested.
Briton Garry Mann, who was accused by Albufeira court of being a chief instigator in the riots, made international headlines when he accused Portuguese authorities of an unfair trial.
Mann, who was tried and convicted by Albufeira court in 48 hours, was sentenced to two years in prison for his role in the clashes but maintained his innocence throughout.
He was deported from Portugal to the UK allegedly on the understanding that if he went voluntarily, he would not have to serve his prison sentence there.
However, Portuguese authorities later issued a warrant for his extradition back to Portugal to make sure jail time was served.
Despite a long battle against extradition, which involved the organisation Fair Trial International, Mann was sent back to Lisbon in May 2010 to start his sentence.
A year later he was transferred back to the UK, in May 2011, to finish his time in a British prison, and was eventually released in August 2011.
Rebecca Shaeffer, Mann’s case worker at Fair Trials International, said the Portuguese authorities were under the impression that Mann would serve his two-year sentence in the UK, whereas Mann and the British consular authorities thought deportation was the punishment.
Fair Trials International said Mann’s case highlighted the need for reform of the European arrest warrant and the fast-track system for extradition in Europe.
The British Embassy in Lisbon told The Portugal News this week that neither its Portimão or Lisbon bureaus have been asked for support in connection with this case, but “we stand ready to provide consular assistance if required.”