Wooden prisons built to house Euro hooligans
The Swiss authorities have built 48 wooden cells to house football hooligans at the European Championship.6 June 2008
GENEVA - Swiss authorities have turned part of Geneva's giant convention centre into a holding prison for hooligans at the European Championship.
The Swiss Army built 48 wooden cells - each able to hold four detainees - and put them in Palexpo Centre, the convention hall famous for hosting the International Geneva Motor Show.
"They need to do something wrong to get in," police spokesman Jean-Philippe Brandt said Thursday.
There were 7,000 offences and about 9,000 arrests and temporary detentions reported by police at the 2006 World Cup in neighbouring Germany, and Swiss authorities are prepared if trouble arises.
The security bill in Switzerland is budgeted at about CHF 62.8 million, including funds for German and French police reinforcements if needed. The exact cost of the hooligan prison wasn't announced but it's in the "hundreds of thousands" of euros, Brandt said.
It's dark and gloomy inside the cells, which have no windows but a small opening on top to allow 24-hour surveillance through police cameras.
Outside the cells, there's almost everything you might need during the day: showers, bathrooms, tables to eat on and microwave ovens. At the end of the row of cells, there is a makeshift prayer area with prayer rugs and a compass. On a desk next to it lie a Bible, the Quran and a Jewish prayer book in various languages.
Detainees will spend no more than 24 hours in the prison. After that, they will either be deported back to their home countries or stand trial in Switzerland.
"After 24 hours, if it's something serious they will go to a court. Otherwise, they will be deported," Brandt said.
With the Geneva International Airport near the convention centre, Brandt said: "We have the planes right here, so it's easy. No trouble. Just bye-bye."
Efforts are also under way to pre-empt and stop any possible reasons for violence. The city's ice rink is being converted into an all-night nightclub to help keep fans off the streets. A total of 90,000 fans who don't have tickets can watch games at a fan zone in the city centre or at a separate camping site at Bout-du-Monde.
Security personnel from other countries attending the tournament are in Switzerland to help police spot possible troublemakers before they cause any problems during public screenings of matches.
Switzerland's federal hooligan database has the names of about 320 Swiss people, while a further 6,000 foreigners are recorded as "risky fans."
Brandt said Swiss fans who do something wrong will also be brought to the hooligan prison, just like any foreigners.
"It's a special Euro jail. It's not a foreigner jail," Brandt said.
[AP / Flickr contributor Heraklit / Expatica]
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