NYON, Switzerland (AP) — A pro-Palestinian people’s activist group occupied UEFA’s headquarters and met with its president Michel Platini on Friday to protest Israel’s hosting of the European Under-21 Championship.
Protesters chanted slogans and carried banners and placards critical of Platini before some were invited into his office following a meeting of his executive committee.
Olivia Zemor, a spokeswoman for the group, said they told Platini that UEFA was “encouraging war crimes” by choosing Israel to host the eight-nation event in June.
“He had no answer to that,” Zemor told reporters, describing it as a “shame to grant Israel this honor.”
Platini spent 30 minutes meeting with the protesters, delaying a scheduled news conference to report on his board’s meeting.
“We in football do what we can to help young people have a better life,” Platini told reporters. “The people that came here today were not fully aware of what we do.”
Platini cited a letter he recently received from the president of the Palestinian football association, Jibril Rajoub, thanking him for support in getting young men released from prison.
Last year, Platini resisted calls from Rajoub to strip Israel of hosting rights.
The tournament is scheduled to be played from June 5-18 in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Netanya and Petach Tikva.
The protesters argue that three of the stadiums are built on the sites of former Palestinian villages which were demolished.
Israel has been a member of European football since 1994, after political problems forced it to leave the Asian Football Confederation in 1974.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.