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England fans defiant in court

June 18, 2004 19:35 IST

Eight England supporters accused of football hooliganism in Portugal have vowed to challenge any banning orders slapped on them by the courts after violent clashes with police at a southern Algarve resort.

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They faced a barrage of photographers and reporters as they arrived at a west London court on Friday morning, just hours after returning to Heathrow airport from the Euro 2004 tournament.

Some 33 England supporters agreed to voluntarily leave Portugal and are banned by a court there from returning for a year following two nights of rioting in Albufeira earlier this week.

Police said the eight at Uxbridge magistrates court on Friday were served with notice of banning orders, meaning they could be forced to surrender their passports to stop them travelling to England games abroad. They can contest the orders.

"I believe I am innocent. We were told that courts are seeking a banning order -- I want at least to launch an appeal against the banning order," Andrew Williams, 22, from Sussex told reporters outside the court.

Three more Britons were due in court in Portugal on Friday on public order charges after police detained them for throwing plastic glasses of beer at officers.

Police marched the three young men out of a group of singing and dancing supporters who thronged a street of bars and clubs to celebrate England's 3-0 victory over Switzerland on Thursday.

The three brought to 50 the number of England fans arrested around the resort of Albufeira on Portugal's Algarve coast.

Several people were injured during rioting on Monday and Tuesday in which hooligans, many wearing England shirts, threw bottles and chairs at police and smashed windows.

England fans have a long and bloody reputation for soccer violence and caused serious trouble during the 1998 World Cup in France and at the last European Championship in 2000 in Belgium and the Netherlands.

UEFA, European soccer's governing body, has warned the Football Association that the national team could be banned from Euro 2004 if its fans disrupt the tournament.

Most of the eight who appeared in court in London on Friday had not had chance to consult lawyers since arriving back in the country and their cases were adjourned until July 28.

"They are all seeking legal advice," said Inspector Chris Broome, of London police's football intelligence unit, adding they had all been released on bail.

Some of the fans complained of unfair treatment at the hands of Portuguese police.

"I think it is a disgrace. I was one mile away -- I was nowhere near the riots," said 22-year-old John Jackson, of Newcastle. "I was repeatedly beaten, spat on and urinated on. I had a dog in my face. I am definitely innocent, I have nothing to hide," he added.

Gary Mann, sentenced in Portugal to two years in prison for riotous behaviour and inciting a riot, was not among those who arrived back on Thursday. Mann will serve his sentence in Britain.

UEFA has said no action would be taken against England over the violence in Albufeira, which is more than 100 miles (160 km) from any of the England squad's first round venues.

Victoria Cutler
Source: source
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