TWO football fans from Bolton arrested in Germany for having Nazi symbols painted on their bodies have appeared in court in this country.
They were held when they flew into Leeds and Bradford Airport at 10pm on Monday night.
Kristopher Dunn, aged 23, of Colchester Drive, Farnworth, and Gordon Thomas, aged 21, from The Avenue, The Haulgh, were taken before a district judge in Leeds yesterday.
The fans had both been arrested by German police after England's opening World Cup game against Paraguay in Frankfurt on Saturday.
They were unable to get tickets for the match and joined other England fans in Frankfurt's main square to watch the match on a big screen.
Yesterday Dunn, who had a banned swastika on his shoulder and an SS symbol on his back, was banned from attending football matched for 25 months.
Thomas, who had an SS insignia painted between his shoulder blades, was not banned because the District Judge at Leeds Magistrates Court said he may not have known what was on his back.
Dunn said after the hearing: "I have accepted the order. But at the end of the day I didn't do anything wrong.
"I love football and I'm a big Manchester United fan. It was my first time watching England abroad and I can't believe I didn't even get to see the game live and I got arrested."
In court, Mark Foley, representing Dunn, said the soccer fan had had a lot to drink during the match and was inebriated.
After the game he left the squarewith a group of friends.
They had a stick of face paint and were drawing on each other.
Mr Foley said Dunn claimed someone must have daubed the SS insignia upon his back and the swastika on his shoulder without him realising what it was. The jagged SS was the insignia of the Schutzstaffel, the military wing of the Nazi party, which served as Hitler's personal bodyguard and provided guards for concentration camps.
Dunn said that when he saw the swastika on his shoulder, he tried to get rid of it, but was arrested.
The court heard Dunn also had a letter J on his arm, believed to be a slight to Jews, but claimed not to know its meaning.
Mr Foley said: "He had no track record of this kind of conduct and had been perfectly well behaved throughout the first half of the match."
Samantha Davidson, prosecuting, asked for a 25 month football banning order to be slapped on Dunn to last until the end of the European football championships in 2008.
The order was imposed and bans Dunn entering any premises for the purposes of attending a football match in England and Wales.
He must also surrender his passport when international matches are played outside the UK and must notify the police if he moves house.
Speaking on behalf of Thomas, Mr Foley said he had also gone with the group and had an SS symbol painted on his back but was not aware it was there until he was arrested.
The District Judge said there was no evidence to prove Thomas had any intent to cause violence or disorder, as he may not have known what was on his back.
Thomas may now be entitled to compensation, which will be determined at a later date.
After their arrest in Germany, the two fans were released by police after they had paid a surety.
Speaking after the hearing, Thomas, an HGV driver, said: "I did not know what had been daubed on my back.
"I do not believe in any of the Nazis stuff and I am not a racist."
Thomas said he believed the sign had been painted on by one of a group he had travelled to Germany with to watch the match.
"But I think the joke was on the same level as Prince Harry dressing up as a Nazis, and whoever did it did not realise the offensive it would cause," he said.
Mr Thomas said he together with Kristopher Dunn were taken to a police station where they spent four, some of the time locked in a cell and fined 50 euros each.
"It was quite frightening. I was stripped searched andhad my finger prints taken. It was not until I got to the station that I realised what had been painted on my back."
The former Little Lever pupil said he was able to enjoy the rest of his break, and travelled to Cologne and Dusseldorf, before taking his planned flight back on Monday, where he was again arrested at the airport.
"I was determined to fight and clear my name. The police asked if I would accept a banning order. But I wanted to prove that I was not a racist," said Mr Thomas, who is a season ticket holder for Bolton Wanderers FC.
"I can't believe what has happened. It was such a good atmosphere when we were watching the match on a big screen on the Rhine. There were all nationalities there and we got on so well. Then this joke just went really wrong."
He added: "I think the police wanted to make an example of us, because we were the first supporters back home. I would have like to go and see more matches over in Germany but I am a bit wary now."
Mr Thomas said: "I would like to go back to Germany one day because it is such a beautiful country."
He is now looking into claiming compensation for his experience.
"I was wrongfully detained and was branded a racist, which is an awful thing to be called."
The maximum punishment for breaching a football banning order is six months in prison and/or a fine of 5,000 pounds.