England fan loses appeal over Euro 2000 violence

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The Independent Online

An England football fan lost an appeal yesterday against his conviction in Belgium for assaulting police during the Euro 2000 championships.

Mark Forrester, 33, of Great Barr, Birmingham, has fought a long legal battle to clear his name after being convicted under a controversial "fast-track" court system introduced by Belgian authorities. His legal advisers said yesterday that he would now take his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Stephen Jakobi, director of the pressure group Fair Trial Abroad, said the failure of Forrester's appeal – which alleged police suppression of evidence and breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights – was an "expected result".

Mr Jakobi said: "The Belgian Supreme Court has decided to uphold national law over European human rights law and this is bound to be put right by the European Court of Human Rights."

Forrester – the only Briton convicted after the rampages by hooligans that marred Euro 2000 – had hoped video evidence shown at his retrial in March was enough to clear his name on appeal. He was found guilty of attacking police and instigating riots in Brussels on 16 June, the eve of England's match with Germany.

Forrester served one month of his one-year sentence and was released on appeal in July after insisting he had not been given enough time to prepare his defence. Married with a child, he lost his job as a plant hire manager after his conviction and is still out of work.

He was one of 400 Britons arrested in the centre of Brussels that day. Most were immediately sent back to the UK. In all, some 750 British fans were held in Brussels and Charleroi, where the match was played.

Mr Jakobi claimed Belgian ministers had "taken great pride" in the fast-track procedures, which were likely to be used to deal with political disorder at a European summit in Belgium later this year. "It would therefore have been incredible if the Belgian court had torpedoed their national law today," he said.