Four people accused of hanging an effigy of Real Madrid player Vinícius Júnior off a highway bridge were released from custody Thursday while still under investigation for perpetrating a hate crime.
A Spanish judge in Madrid prohibited the four people from attempting to communicate with Vinícius. They also have a temporary restraining order banning them from a 1-kilometer (0.62-mile) area around Madrid’s stadium and training facilities and from coming within the same distance of any soccer stadium between four hours before and four hours after a Spanish league game.
The court statement said the four people are also being investigated for trying to damage the moral integrity of Vinícius. It added that the four opted not to answer the judge’s questions in their first court appearance, in line with their constitutional rights.
The incident of the effigy occurred on Jan. 26 in the buildup to a derby match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
But it wasn’t until Tuesday when police made the arrests amid a public uproar that has engulfed Spain following the latest episode of racial abuse being targeted at Vinícius.
Police on Tuesday also detained three people accused of verbally abusing Vinícius with racist slurs during a match on Saturday in Valencia at Mestalla Stadium, which will have parts of stands closed for the next five games. Those three were also released from custody.
The 22-year-old Vinícius, who is Black, has been subjected to repeated racist taunts since he arrived in Spain five years ago from his native Brazil.
In Spain, hate crimes are typically punished with one-to-four years of prison time, while crimes against a person’s moral integrity are punished with six-to-24 months behind bars.
Also Thursday, Spain’s Ombudsman Office asked the country’s Higher Sports Council, the government’s authority for sports, for more information about the racist abuse targeted at Vinícius during the game in Valencia. The office said it had received complaints from “two Brazilian civil society organizations” regarding the abuse and that it was in contact with its counterpart in the South American country.
In a statement, the Ombudsman Office stated that Spanish law prohibits any acts of racism, xenophobia or intolerance during sports events.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports