PARIS - An Olympique Marseille fan sentenced to jail in Spain after assaulting police officers during a Champions League match at Atletico Madrid was released on bail on Tuesday, the French club said. The fan, Santos Mirasierra, was released on bail after a Spanish court accepted an appeal lodged by one his lawyers, Marseille said on their website. Mirasierra was sentenced to 3-1/2 years in prison last week after incidents during the teams' meeting at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid two months ago. The news of his release came hours before the return leg between Marseille and Atletico, scheduled to kick off at 1945 GMT at the Velodrome in Marseille. "I'm delighted at the news of his release but I believe such a decision could have been taken earlier to avoid adding confusion to anger," Marseille president Pape Diouf told the website. "The most important thing is that a Spanish court has agreed to release him on bail," Diouf added. "This is a first important step but others need to be taken while waiting for the appeal trial." The court confirmed in a statement that Mirasierra had been released on bail of 6,000 euros ($7,724). RISING TENSION The case has been a source of rising tension ahead of Atletico's trip to Marseille for their final Group D match. Marseille police said there were fears violence could mar the game, for which around 1,000 officers will be on duty. The Marseille fan group to which Mirasierra belongs had asked their estimated 4,500 members to boycott the game and demonstrate outside the Velodrome. After the news of his release, however, they decided they would enter the stadium to watch the game from the stands, Marseille said. Atletico beat Marseille 2-1 in Madrid on October 1, but the game was marred by clashes between police and visiting fans before kickoff. UEFA said failures in the home side's organisation of the game led to the confrontations and it initially ordered Atletico to play their following two European matches at least 300 km outside Madrid. On appeal, the punishment was reduced by European soccer's governing body to one game behind closed doors, which they won 2-1 against PSV Eindhoven on November 26 to qualify for the last 16. Marseille need to at least match PSV's result at home to Liverpool on Tuesday to clinch a place in the last 32 of the UEFA Cup.
9 December 2008
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