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The BBC's James Coomerasamy
"The French policeman was in a coma for six weeks"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 18:39 GMT 19:39 UK
German fan jailed for gendarme attack
Markus Warnecke in court
Warnecke could have received a 15-year sentence

A German football supporter accused in court of leading a vicious attack on a French policeman in the 1998 World Cup has been jailed for five years.

Markus Warnecke, 30, admitted taking part in the attack on gendarme Daniel Nivel, but said he had played only a minor role.

Daniel Nivel
Daniel Nivel suffered irreversible brain damage
Mr Nivel, 46, suffered irreversible brain damage. He spent several weeks in a coma, and still has difficulty moving and speaking.

Prosecutors, who had demanded a 10-year jail term, labelled Warnecke as the leader of the attack, which followed a Germany-Yugoslavia match in Lens.

"Warnecke was in charge of this commando gang, this horde of hooligans," prosecutor Stephane Chassard told the court in St Omer.


"He is the main perpetrator... of this unspeakable act of savagery which lasted 30 seconds at most."

Warnecke, a bouncer and tattoo shop owner reported to have links to the far-right, has said he regrets his part in the attack.

He was found guilty of deliberate violence leading to the gendarme's injuries, but cleared of attacking two other officers.

Police with German fan
Police in Lens fought to restrain German hooligans
As well as being handed the jail term, he was banned from France for 10 years, and from all sports facilities for five years. He had faced a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.

The gang used parts of advertising hoardings as weapons against Mr Nivel and his two colleagues.

He suffered appalling head injuries as he was kicked and beaten whilst lying on the ground, having lost his protective helmet.

The attack sparked widespread outrage in France and Germany.

German fans
The Lens unrest caused outrage in France and Germany
One of the people to give evidence against Warnecke was a child identified only as Matthieu.

"He threw a plank of wood and after that he jumped on the policeman and punched and kicked him," Matthieu told the court.

Warnecke admitted using a wooden board during the fight, but denied landing the blows on Mr Nivel.

His lawyer had argued that, as Warnecke did not appear in pictures of the attack taken by an amateur photographer, he could not be held responsible for Mr Nivel's injuries.


Four other members of the gang have already been jailed in Germany for up to 10 years.

Warnecke was put on trial in France because he was arrested on the spot.

While in custody, he grew his hair from its previous skinhead cut, and a French teacher testified in court to his good behaviour while awaiting trial.

Mr Nivel has attended most of the trial, accompanied by his wife, Lorette, and two sons.

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See also:

04 Aug 98 | Europe
World Cup policeman out of coma
06 Jul 98 | Europe
Gendarme attack suspect arrested
29 Jun 98 | Europe
German hooligans warned
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