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WE'RE ALL INNOCENT; Riot cops framed us say jailed soccer fans.

Battered English soccer fans emerged from jail in Rome last night claiming they had been stitched up by police.

Twenty one of them were freed after spending 48 hours in the cells. Four were given eight-month suspended sentences for attacking police during England's World Cup qualifier against Italy.

The four, Andrew Jordan, 38, Fernando Puertollano, 31, Nigel Andrews, 39 and Patrick Brogan 30, all apologised to the court.

But afterwards Andrew said: "They set it all up.

"I was battered unconscious and left the terraces on a stretcher. I was taken to hospital.

"When I was discharged they were waiting outside and took me to the police station.

"When I went to court today, the interpreter said, 'This is the deal, say you were drunk, you did the offence, and apologise. Then you go free'. I had to admit it."

Andrew, from St Albans, Herts, added: "It's been horrific, a nightmare. I was pleading for my life."

Fernando, from Brentwood, Essex, said: "I fell on the floor and a policeman hit me on the head. I was picked up by a few English supporters, the police went away, and I went to the first aid station, then hospital.

"Then police took me into a room and then to a police station. Because I was English they thought I was a troublemaker.

"They threw me in the back of a police van and hit me round the legs and body. They were calling me names and saying I was a hooligan. But I'm no hooligan."

Spanish-born Fernando explained: "On Saturday, I was part of an organised trip, went to a restaurant in town before the match to enjoy a meal and wanted to enjoy the game.

"I didn't beat up this policeman. I was trying to watch the match, and we were obstructed by the Italian fans throwing things.

"This whole thing has been the most awful nightmare. I am completely innocent. Our lawyer asked us if we wanted to get out of prison today and of course we said Yes. But we only agreed so that we would be released."

Close to tears, he added: "I'm worried about what my mother will think and all my family and friends. This was terrible."

Patrick, from Aldershot, Hants, said: "I was advised to plead guilty to get it over with, but it's rubbish that I head-butted anyone. I was walking towards the game, got separated from my friends, a policeman told me to stop and I didn't understand him.

"Then loads of other policemen came along. They pinned me to the bonnet of a car and started hitting me.

"Then when I was in the car and handcuffed, an officer was given the chance to hit me."

Father-of-two Nigel, 37, from Cradley Heath, West Midlands, showed massive bruises on his back.

He said: "I pleaded guilty this morning and did not even know what I was pleading guilty to. They put my name at the top of the charge sheet and just made up the rest."

One fan arrested and released without charge was John Clayton, 26, who had travelled from his job in Hong Kong.

He claimed he was arrested "for being English".

Two other fans, Andrew Elliott, 24, a plumber from Algrave, Derbyshire, and 25-year-old Justin Bate, from Bachup, near Burnley, said they had been attacked by baton-wielding Italian fans, tried to escape and then were arrested. Andrew, who showed injuries to his head and back, said: "I'm going to take legal advice when I return home.

"I've got bruises all over my legs and back. I'm disgusted by my treatment at the hands of the police. They lashed out and asked questions later, calling me an English bastard and a hooligan."

Factory worker Justin added: "We were all put up before magistrate in prison today, and told to plead guilty to assault if we wanted to go home.

"But I have no idea what sentence I received, whether it was suspended or whatever. Italian justice is a joke."

Seven more fans were still being held last night. One is believed to be convicted football thug Paul Dodd, 26, from Carlisle.

They are thought to have been arrested early on Saturday after a 63-year- old Italian man and his 24-year-old son were attacked on a Rome-bound train.

Dodd was fined for his part in rioting during England's abandoned 1995 match against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin.
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Article Details
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Author:Armstrong, Jeremy
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 14, 1997
Words:737
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