Jerusalem supporters from the La Familia fan group hold up a match against Charleroi in Belgium.
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
Nineteen members of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team’s fan club La Familia were indicted in the Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday for criminal activities involving violence, weapons use and as part of a general crackdown on criminal racist activities against Arabs by many of the groups members.
In late July, more than 400 police officers swept through the North and South, arresting 47 members of La Familia on suspicion of illegal weapons trafficking and intent to bring pyrotechnics to matches.
Fifty-six people were arrested, some on suspicion of drug trafficking, with more arrests expected.
A Justice Ministry spokeswoman said the investigation was ongoing and that more indictments might follow the 19 already issued by the Tel Aviv District Attorney’s Office.
The indictments included minors whose names remain under gag order.
The arrests were made possible by a six-month undercover operation, conducted under the auspices of the Coastal District Police, in which an undercover agent infiltrated La Familia. His name is also under gag order.
The Justice Ministry said it also has a wealth of transcripts of telephone conversations and WhatsApp messages from the defendants to support it case against them.
La Familia has gained notoriety for racist chants and reoccurring violence. In October 2015, three suspects allegedly linked to La Familia were arrested in connection with a violent attack on a Hapoel Tel Aviv fan, who was hit in the head with a hammer and seriously wounded.
On Sunday, Omer Golan was indicted for attempted murder of the fan in one of the most severe crimes attributed to any of the defendants.
The indictment said he attacked the fan with a hammer, having told other La Familia members that he intended to kill him for erasing the group’s graffiti.
Along with the arrests, police seized 12 flash grenades, one kilogram of explosives, two gas grenades, 19 improvised grenades and other materials.
The Coastal Division police spokesman told The Jerusalem Post when the arrests were announced in July that the arrests made significant headway into combating violence in sports. He said, however, that those indicted do not characterize the majority of La Familia.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan praised the police on his Twitter page for conducting a “complex operation” that sought to curb violence at soccer matches.
In July 2015, members of La Familia threw dozens of incendiary devices onto the field during a Europa League match. The Union of European Football Associations fined Beitar Jerusalem €95,000 as a result and ordered a 500-seat closure of Beitar’s Teddy Stadium during the subsequent UEFA competition match.
Violence at soccer matches has become an issue of national concern. In mid-July, Erdan and Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev agreed to fund a new police unit that will combat crime at sporting events, beginning with the 2016-17 soccer season, which starts next month. The unit will gather intelligence about the causes of violence and incitement at sporting events and bring indictments against suspected offenders.