Police in Greece have arrested five Croatian nationals allegedly involved in deadly soccer fan violence, apprehending them as they attempted to flee the country.
The arrests were announced Wednesday, a day after a 29-year-old Greek fan was stabbed to death outside AEK Athens’ stadium, prompting the cancellation of a Champions League qualifier against Dinamo Zagreb.
The five suspects were detained in the northwestern port of Igoumenitsa as they prepared to board a ferry bound for Italy, police said. More than 90 other suspects are due to appear before a magistrate in Athens for their alleged involvement in attacks that left 10 people injured. Four remain hospitalized.
More violence was feared Wednesday as Athens club Panathinaikos faces Marseille in a Champions League qualifier, which was set to go ahead under strict security measures at Leoforos Stadium in the center of the Greek capital.
Greek Public Order Minister Giannis Oikonomou said the police had made “tragic errors” in failing to stop the traveling Croatian supporters and failing to act on information that clashes were likely. He has dismissed calls from opposition parties to resign and suspended seven police officers, including several in senior positions, pending an investigation and their reassignment or dismissal.
Outside AEK’s Opap Arena, fans set up tributes to the supporter who was killed — identified by family members as Michalis Katsouris from a town near Athens — leaving flowers and candles at the site where he died of a stab wound.
AEK says it has called on European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, to impose “immediate and severe punishment” on Dinamo Zagreb, expressing disappointment that the qualifier will go ahead in Zagreb later this month.
“The question that torments our fans is one that we described from the outset and that also torments us: How is it possible that following the brutal murder of Michalis by a gang of vicious criminals from Croatia, for AEK Athens to enter the field and play against this team?” AEK said.
“Will any of his killers be in the stands?”
The Croatian government and Dinamo Zagreb have both strongly condemned that attacks in Athens. And in a joint statement, the mayors of Athens and Zagreb, Kostas Bakoyannis and Tomislav Tomasevic appealed for calm.
“Athens and Zagreb maintain friendly ties, and as mayors we are committed to strengthening them,” they wrote. “This senseless violence has no place in our stadiums, in our cities and in our societies.”