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Last Updated: Friday, 18 June, 2004, 19:28 GMT 20:28 UK
Portuguese police defend arrests
By Duncan Walker
BBC News Online in Portugal

Portuguese police have denied using unnecessary force against English football fans and mistreating some of those arrested.

Captain Pereira
Captain Pereira said police officers acted within the law

They said officers acted within the law following outbreaks of violence and the detention of more than 40 England supporters in the resort of Albufeira.

It follows claims they used batons indiscriminately, hitting innocent bystanders as they dealt with those throwing bottles, glasses and chairs.

"If they were not making trouble they should not have been there," said Captain Carlos Pereira of the GNR military police. "If they were there, then they have some risk - the force was used only when necessary."

Officers on the Algarve, and across Portugal, have been working with UK police to target known trouble makers, and to deal with outbreaks of violence.

'Scapegoats'

Riot police and mounted officers have become a common sight along Albufeira's strip of bars and restaurants, in a bid to quickly tackle any disturbances.

If they were not making trouble they should not have been there
Captain Pereira

In Albufeira a number of England supporters have spoken of fans who were "in the wrong place at the wrong time" being hit by officers.

After being cleared of involvement in the disorder, in the early hours of Tuesday and Wednesday, Paul Donahue and Nick Boyle said they had been beaten with batons.

"We just feel like we've been made scapegoats," Mr Donahue told the BBC.

Others held complained they were hit after their arrest, had their toes stamped on to keep them awake and were kept "like animals".

But Captain Pereira denied anyone had been mistreated and said they had had the chance to put their case to a judge.

While most England fans travelled to Portugal for the football, some came to cause trouble, said Captain Pereira.

Lisbon and Coimbra, where England have played their matches, were peaceful because their larger size made it more difficult for fans to congregate, he said.

We just feel like we've been made scapegoats
Paul Donohue

Although English visitors to Albufeira are often arrested during the summer months, often after too much sun and too many drinks, the violence this week was exceptional.

"This kind of phenomenon, with 300 or 400 people together to commit violent acts is completely new to us," said Captain Pereira.

And he was scathing of those parents who have taken often young children out to an area where trouble has been taking place.

"If people are there with children they should take them home and protect them. I am surprised at how many are out late at night."

But he is hopeful that things could improve if people concentrate on simply enjoying the football and the good weather.

"It's always possible that it could happen again, but let's hope not. We're going to be here in force all during Euro 2004."



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