British journalists arrested in Belgium

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The Independent Online

Three British tabloid journalists seeking to expose lax security at the Euro 2000 championship were arrested Friday after they enacted scenes with knives in a public park, the prosecutor's office said.

Three British tabloid journalists seeking to expose lax security at the Euro 2000 championship were arrested Friday after they enacted scenes with knives in a public park, the prosecutor's office said.

The News of the World newspaper said its three journalists were working on an article revealing the widespread availability of lethal weapons on the Intelligence Service said the men had hunting knives and a crossbow.

The News of the World said later Friday that the three had been released.

"Our journalists were investigating the widespread availability of lethal weapons when they were detained by the police," said a spokeswoman for the paper.

"Once the police were satisfied that our team were engaged in a legitimate journalistic exercise, they were set free unconditionally and they have been assured they can remain in Belgium with their official accreditation intact to cover the Euro 2000 story.

"It is apparent that there was a misunderstanding. Happily, our journalists are free to get on with their work."

But Brussels police said the arrests were justified.

"Nobody can carry weapons without a valid reason or authorization," said a spokesman. "They were carrying hunting knives and they were not hunting so they were breaking the law."

The June 10-July 2 tournament in Belgium and the Netherlands is anticipating fan violence at some of the 31 games and has stepped up security in the 8 host cities.

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