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Soccer: Letta appeals for jailed Lazio fans in Poland

Premier says Warsaw will act, but minister calls them 'bandits'

05 December, 18:30
Soccer: Letta appeals for jailed Lazio fans in Poland (By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Rome, December 5 - Italian Premier Enrico Letta on Thursday appealed to the Polish government to intervene in the case of 22 Lazio fans arrested last week before a Europa League game against Legia Warsaw.

Around 150 fans of the Rome club were detained before the match, allegedly for attacking police who were escorting them to the stadium.

Most were released in the days following Thursday's match after paying fines, but 22 Italians remain in custody.

Rome is pressing for them to be released.

"While respecting the law and the separation of powers, I have asked the Polish government to accelerate the application of the rules as much as possible," Letta told a press conference after meeting Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

"I asked Tusk to do everything to respond to the great concern in the Italian public," added the premier, who also went to the Italian embassy in the Polish capital for a meeting with the families of the detained fans.

Tusk said his government would act.

"I'll do everything to accelerate the procedures," Tusk said. "I'll appeal to the prosecutor general and the justice minister so that they follow the case personally to avoid delays".

According to reports in the Italian media, many of the fans who were detained had nothing to do with any trouble. There have also been reports a number of fans were convicted of resisting arrest after signing confessions written in Polish.

Italian and Polish soccer both have long-standing problems with hooliganism. Lazio's fans have one of the worst records for trouble among Serie A supporters.

Police arrested 17 Lazio fans following a fight outside a hotel in the Polish capital on the night before the match.

The Rome side won 2-0 to book themselves a place in the knock-out round of Europe's secondary club competition.

Polish Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz struck a different tone from his boss in the cabinet Thursday, saying the group of detained Lazio fans contained "bandits".

Sienkiewicz said he understood the distress of family members who had come to Poland to assist the arrested fans, but stressed that "the law is the same for everyone, both Poles and foreigners".