June 24, 2006

Over 100 England fans held in Stuttgart

STUTTGART (Reuters) - Over 100 England supporters were
detained in Stuttgart overnight for mostly drunken and
aggressive behavior as they gathered for Sunday's second-round
World Cup match with Ecuador, police said on Saturday.

A spokesman for the city's police, Stefan Keilback, said
113 fans were held in the center of the city after drinking
heavily and throwing tables and bottles.

"There were no hooligans, just drunk people," he said.

A spokeswoman for a British team of police officers working
in Germany said of the 113, 110 were for preventative reasons,
and three for more serious matters including throwing chairs
and the possession of drugs.

Under German law police can detain individuals for
threatening behavior or if they suspect they are likely to
commit a crime and it does not constitute a full arrest.

The British spokeswoman said a prosecutor was now examining
the 113 cases and said she expected that those held would be
detained until after the game had been played.

A spokeswoman for the British Home Office said the trouble
had involved England and Tunisian fans.


Stephen Thomas, the head of the British police team working
in Germany, praised the Stuttgart police for their actions on
Saturday night, saying the fans were singing racist and abusive

"Some 300 to 400 fans were drinking in Stuttgart center at
6pm and by 1am about 100 were left," he told the BBC. "They
refused to disperse and the police here quite rightly took them
into custody," he told the BBC.

"They acted fully in conjunction with ourselves and I, in
fact, made the final decision (for them to be detained). We
gave them lots of opportunities to disperse ... they were
preventative arrests."

The English have a long history of soccer-related violence
but there has been little trouble in Germany so far, with only
a small number of arrests for mostly drunken behavior or people
trying to get into a stadium without a ticket.

Some 60,000 England fans are expected to descend on
Stuttgart for Sunday's match.