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Jailed soccer fan joins fight to help arrest victims abroad.

Byline: MARTYN LEEK

DISGRACED Midland football fan Mark Forrester is teaming up with another convicted hooligan to help the families of England supporters arrested abroad.

The father-of-two from Great Barr, Birmingham was the only person convicted at Euro 2000 of hooliganism but has fought a long-running battle to clear his name.

Now he is joining forces with Martin Kerr, from Portsmouth in Hampshire, who was convicted in similar circumstances before England's game against Tunisia in Marseilles at the World Cup in 1998.

The pair hope to talk at the Football Supporters' Association (FSA) annual conference at the end of the month.

Kerr lost his job after spending 46 days in a French jail and has written a book about his ordeal called 'An Englishman Abroad' - in which he claims he was arrested because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Villa fan Forrester was also sacked from his job as a warehouse manager after being convicted under a controversial fast-track system following violence on the streets of Brussels before England's game against Germany in Charleroi.

He served a month of a year-long sentence in a Belgian jail before being freed pending an appeal on the grounds that his defence had not been able to present a proper case.

Despite video evidence which showed he was not involved in any trouble, a retrial in April contro- versially upheld the conviction, although his punishment was reduced to a pounds 50 fine and a six-month suspended sentence.

Forrester, 34, is now planning to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights as well as another appeal using the Belgian legal system.

He told the Sunday Mercury last night: 'I'll be speaking at the Supporters' Association conference, putting forward reasons why we need to help people who are wrongly convicted of being football hooligans.

'When it happened to me, I had nowhere to turn. There was nothing in operation to help me.

'The politicians didn't help and the media just didn't want to know until the Sunday Mercury took up my case. I was in prison and my family felt completely abandoned.

'The only people who helped me at the beginning were other football fans.'

Forrester said it had not been decided if the action group would be run by the FSA or an independent organisation.

'I was contacted by Martin Kerr after he had been given my details by the FSA,' he said. 'The similarities between his case and mine are spooky. There is a definite need for an organisation like this because these miscarriages of justice are going to keep happening. England fans are targets when they go abroad.'

Kerr, 42, went to the World Cup with his then girlfriend and her son. When trouble erupted between Tunisian and English fans, he was snatched from the streets by French police officers.

He was convicted of throwing a bottle, hitting a policeman and resisting arrest - charges he vehemently denies to this day.

'If an organisation had been there to help, my story could be a whole lot different.'

CAPTION(S):

Mark Forrester Martin Kerr
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jun 10, 2001
Words:516
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