Monday , July 4 2022

French police officers investigated over use of teargas against Liverpool fans | Champions League

Two French police officers are being investigated over disproportionate use of teargas against Liverpool supporters at the Champion League final in Paris last Saturday, the French interior minister has said, announcing that fans will be able to file legal complaints over their treatment.

Gérald Darmanin told a senate committee he had “nothing to hide” after senators insisted they wanted the “truth” and “concrete facts” about the police response outside the Stade de France. The match was delayed by more than 30 minutes after French police officers forcefully held back people trying to enter the ground and fans, including children, were teargassed.

Darmanin said there had been “a certain number of inappropriate and disproportionate gestures” by police or gendarmes, which had been documented. He said that two officers had used teargas in a way that “was against the rules of its use” and had been referred to the police watchdog, where he had asked for them to be sanctioned.

But Darmanin defended the police’s general use of teargas, which he said should be put into context. He said it was the only method the police had to “disperse” crowds amid fears of crushes outside the stadium. “Teargas allowed people to be saved from being crushed,” he said, but he conceded it also “caused damage, particularly to children”.

He said police dispersion techniques would be reviewed – and that teargas had been the only technique available to riot police crowd-control units that night. He said other crowd-control measures, such as grenades or a form of handheld rubber bullet launchers would not have been “proportionate”.

Several videos on Saturday night had shown teargas being sprayed into a spectator’s face.

Liverpool and Real Madrid fans will be able to file legal complaints in France or to the French police watchdog, Darmanin said. He said French investigators would be sent to Madrid and England to gather testimony and a website in English and Spanish would also be set up by the local French prosecutors’ offices dealing with the event.

The government also said 2,700 Liverpool supporters with genuine tickets who could not access the match would receive financial compensation.

Darmanin said 14 British people were arrested over crowd trouble, including one for violence.

Darmanin said the “negative image” of the match was a “wound for France’s national pride”. He said it was clear “things could have been better organised”.

He insisted to the senate hearing that between 30,000 and 40,000 extra Liverpool fans had turned up to the match either without tickets or with counterfeit tickets. He said there were two types of ticket fraud – fakes that cost £50, bought in the street, which allowed fans to get past initial barriers; or sophisticated counterfeit paper tickets sold for €800 to €1200 (£682 to £852).

François-Noël Buffet, head of the Senate’s law committee, said the chaos before the match had “unanimously been described as scandalous and even as a national shame, according to some politicians”.

The row has taken on huge political weight in France before parliamentary elections in less than two weeks, as opposition politicians on the right and left attacked the newly re-elected president Emmanuel Macron and the French government over what they called police failings and poor organisation.

Darmanin’s version of events – pointing the blame at tens of thousands of British people arriving without tickets – has been challenged by Liverpool fans who attended.

Michel Savin, a senator from the rightwing party Les Républicains also questioned Darmanin’s account of tens of thousands of extra people present, saying it was not corroborated by those on the ground.

European football’s governing body, Uefa, has commissioned an independent report into the trouble.

Macron “has full confidence in Gérald Darmanin as interior minister”, the government spokeswoman Olivia Grégoire told reporters on Wednesday. She said Macron had asked for total “transparency”.

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