A French court has sentenced four men for blocking a black man from entering a subway train on their way to a Champions League game in Paris. The men have denied that racism motivated their actions.
Four fans of British soccer club FC Chelsea were handed suspended sentences of up to a year and ordered to pay fines by a Paris court on Tuesday for committing racist violence.
The men had visited the French capital for a Champions League game between Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain in February 2015. On their way to the stadium, the Brits stopped a black man from entering a subway train filled with British soccer fans.
Video footage shows the men pushing Souleymane Sylla, a Frenchman of Mauritanian origin, back twice as he tried to enter the train.
Fans on the train can also be seen chanting "We're racist and that's the way we like it." The incident grabbed the headlines in both France and the UK.
Sylla told the court that the incident had traumatized him, affecting both his professional and private life.
Fine of 10,000 euros
Two of the defendants, Richard Barklie, a 52-year old former policeman, and 27-year-old William Simpson, did not attend the one-day trial. They were both sentenced to a suspended prison term of one year.
Joshua Parsons, 22 and James Fairbairn (top photo), 25, were present in court. They were given a suspended sentence of eight and six months respectively.
All four men were ordered to collectively pay 10,000 euros to the victim.
'I was not racist in any way'
Both Parsons and Fairbairn denied that racism had motivated their actions.
"I am very sorry to Mr. Sylla, but I was not racist in any way," Parsons said in court, turning to the 35-year-old Frenchman. He said that the men on the train had blocked Sylla from entering because the train was full and not because of his race. The Englishman claimed to not have noticed Sylla's skin color until he saw a video of the incident.
Fairbairn said he found the racist chanting disgusting and denied claims by the prosecution that he had made gestures contrasting his skin color with that of Sylla. "All I can say is that I did not do that," he said. His defense lawyer said he had simply been "in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Prior to the verdict in Paris, Barklie, Simpson and Parsons had already been banned from attending soccer games in England over the incident.
mb/cmk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)