25 Britons Arrive to Stand Trial For Heysel Riots
Sep. 10, 1987
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ Twenty-five British soccer fans were extradited to Belgium amid tight security Wednesday to face manslaughter charges stemming from the 1985 Heysel Stadium riots in which 39 people died.
It was the first such extradition since violence became a recurring phenomenon in European soccer stadiums in the early 1970s. It reflected the British government's determination to stamp out hooliganism, which has barred British teams from European cup matches.
The extradition took place despite riots Sunday and Monday in two Brussels jails by prisoners protesting what they said would be preferential treatment for the British suspects.
The Britons will be housed in a renovated prison in Leuven, east of Brussels.
''A C-130 of the Belgian air force landed at 3 p.m. at Zaventem airport, with 25 of the 26'' suspects, said Belgian Justice Ministry spokesman Francis Burstin.
In London, a Home Office spokesman the 26th defendant will be extradited after standing trial on a ''serious charge'' in a British court Thursday.
The fans were driven under police escort from London's Wormwood Scrubs Prison to Brize Norton air force base in central England, where they flew to Brussels, the Home Office said.
Belgian Justice Ministry officials said there were no incidents on the flight.
The trial of the British suspects is expected to begin later this year or next year. The Britons will be housed in 14 two-room cells at the Leuven prison, 12 miles east of Brussels.
The suspects were identified from videotapes of the riots, which occurred before the European Cup final between FC Liverpool and Juventus Turin of Italy on May 29, 1985.
Thirty-four Italians, four Belgians and a Briton died after British hooligans tore down a fence and charged into a stand containing mostly Italian fans.
Most victims were crushed or trampled to death when a supporting wall at Heysel Stadium, where the match was played, collapsed under pressure from the surging crowd.
The British defendants will stand trial along with a top Belgian soccer federation official and two senior police officials.
Belgian Justice Minister Jean Gol has said the Britons will face charges ranging from assault and battery, with a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment, to premeditated manslaughter, which carries a jail term of up to 15 years.
The three Belgian defendants have been accused of being the perpetrators or joint perpetrators of manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
The soccer federation and police were criticized by a parliamentary inquiry board that investigated the riots and said stadium security was inadequate.
The Britons, if convicted, will be able to serve their sentences in Britain.
Earlier this week, inmates at two Brussels prisons rioted, charging the Liverpool fans would receive better treatment. The prisons are noted for their cramped and unsanitary conditions. One inmate died Wednesday from his injuries.