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Two soccer fans convicted over racist arson attack

Beitar Jerusalem ultras torched their own team’s training center after it signed Muslim players

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Damage at the office of Beitar Jerusalem soccer club which was set on fire when by a Molotov cocktail was thrown into his office early this morning. February 08, 2013. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Damage at the office of Beitar Jerusalem soccer club which was set on fire when by a Molotov cocktail was thrown into his office early this morning. February 08, 2013. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday convicted two soccer fans for torching the Beitar Jerusalem team’s offices in protest of the club signing two Muslim players from Chechnya.

The decision came after Evyatar Yosef, 21, and Matan Navon, 23, pled guilty under a plea bargain for the February arson attack. Under the deal, the two admitted to all charges but did not identify themselves as members of “La Familia,” the organization of Beitar ultras that has a reputation for being racist against Arabs and Muslims.

Yosef and Navon were arrested less than two weeks after the arson at the offices of the club. Seven other suspects were also taken into custody at the time, but only they were accused of setting the blaze.

According to firefighters, the fire was likely started by a Molotov cocktail thrown into the office of club steward Meir Harush, next to the team’s training grounds. There were no injuries, but serious damage was caused to the building, and trophies and club memorabilia were destroyed.

At the time, Beitar said the incident crossed “a red line when it comes to the violence and racism that we’re dealing with.”

Extremist nationalist fans of Beitar were vehemently opposed to the signing of the two Chechen players, Zaur Sadayev and Gabriel Kadiev. During a subsequent game, some were seen with banners reading “Beitar forever pure.”

Asher Zeiger contributed to this report.

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