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Croatia fans burn EU flag before Euro 2012 match

- Associated Press - Thursday, June 14, 2012

POZNAN, POLAND (AP) - Croatian soccer fans burned a European Union flag and paraded around with posters of a convicted war criminal before their team faces Italy at the European Championship on Thursday.

Several thousand Croatian supporters crowded into an area around Poznan's main old town square, drinking and singing before the Group C game in the evening. Some men were bare chested despite chilly weather, displaying tattoos of nationalist symbols.

They taunted a smaller number of Italian fans with an inflatable sex doll wearing an Italian team shirt, and set off flares.

There were also banners on display, some with designs evoking the fascist "Ustasa" movement, which governed Croatia as a Nazi protectorate from 1941-44. Some people also carried pictures of Ante Gotovina, a former general convicted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal at The Hague. Gotovina is an icon of the far-right in Croatia.

Police, some in riot gear, monitored the situation, but did not intervene.

In 2011, a Hague tribunal sentenced Gotovina to 24 years in prison for his role in a 1995 military offensive intended to drive Serb rebels out of land they had occupied for years along Croatia's southern border with Bosnia.

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