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German fan cleared of IRA singing 'as he did not understand lyrics'

Lucas Tussing, 20, from Dusseldorf, was arrested over the songs in match between Celtic and Kilmarnock.

Celtic supporters.
SNS Group

A German football fan has been cleared of singing a song in support of a terrorist group at a Celtic match after claiming he didn't understand the lyrics.

Lucas Tussing, 20, also argued the "The Boys of the Old Brigade" he chanted about was not the same IRA responsible for decades of atrocities.

Tussing was arrested at a Celtic v Kilmarnock game after police saw him waving his arms about and singing "offensive" songs in March last year.

He denied breaching the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act and an alternative charge of threatening or abusive behaviour.

Outside court, Tussing said: "I didn't know what the words meant but everyone was singing them. In Germany this is no problem."

PC Adrian Kelly said Tussing was "quite vocal" among Celtic supporters in the south stand of Kilmarnock's Rugby Park ground, adding: "There were others singing but he was the one our attention was drawn to.

"It was televised and we have concerns about singing which can be broadcast on national TV."

PC Kelly, one of two officers who arrested Tussing, recognised parts of the song Roll of Honour, which commemorates Irish Republican prisoners led by Bobby Sands who died on hunger strike.

The officer heard the lyrics "Through the war-torn streets of Ulster the black flags did sadly sway. To salute ten Irish martyrs, the bravest of the brave" being sung from the fourth verse.

Kilmarnock Sheriff Court heard the song referred to events during the Thatcher government, when Republican prisoners went on hunger strike to obtain political rights in prison.

PC Kelly said Tussing was "singing constantly", adding: "When I went out to the stand I was making my presence known and wearing a fluorescent jacket. Sometimes that is enough to encourage people to stop singing.

"Mr Tussing was the most vocal. Others were singing further back but he was the closest. I made the match commander aware Roll of Honour was being sung."

The officer, part of Police Scotland's FOCUS - the Football Coordination Unit Scotland - said he had policed games throughout Scotland and Europe during his 18 years service.

Neal McShane, defending, asked if he was aware of groups called the Green Brigade or the Celtic Risk Element.

PC Kelly replied: "I think they are more associated with the Celtic Ultras. My information is the Green Brigade consider themselves as an ultra group."

The officer said: "Large flags go up and faces are covered. They are trying to hide their identity because they know police are there with cameras."

Claire McEvinney, prosecuting, said: "Police saw the accused singing constantly. For all the songs he was singing, he clearly knew the words and he accepts he knows such songs.

"It's my submission that people singing about a terrorist organisation would be likely to incite public disorder. He was at the game, he had the scarf on, he was very animated.

"It's within judicial knowledge that there's lots of politics within football, especially Celtic and Rangers. Both the songs are about a terrorist organisation and singing songs about terrorist organisations could cause someone upset, fear and alarm."

But Mr McShane said: "The Roll of Honour is a song and we've heard no evidence a terrorist organisation is referred to in that song.

"Effectively, it refers to people who were in prison on hunger strike. I will go so far as to say it is not in support of a terrorist organisation but is in support of people who were representing the rights of prisoners. Indeed, one of them became an MP."

Referring to The Boys of the Old Brigade, Mr McShane added: "Both officers saw Mr Tussing sing, 'I joined the IRA'. Obviously the IRA is a terrorist organisation but we have heard evidence from the first officer that it was about the Easter Rising of 1916.

"It was put to the officer and she agreed it was not about the Provisional IRA that committed atrocities which are fresh in all our minds. The officer agreed we were not talking about the same IRA which committed the atrocities.

"We heard of Flower of Scotland, which refers to Scots rebelling against the English. Indeed, we heard of the Star Spangled Banner, which refers to the USA."

Mr McShane added: "We have heard the Crown Office deemed both songs to be offensive and consequently Mr Tussing was arrested."

The lawyer said Tussing was a young man from Germany and "not from the East End of Glasgow, Scotland or even Ireland. The difficulty is we are not dealing with a person of that background. The first officer was surprised she was dealing with a foreign national."

Tussing, of Dusseldorf, told officers: "Everyone was doing it. I wouldn't have done it if I knew it was criminal."

Sheriff Shirley Foran described the "unhappy situation" of the court put in a position of making pronouncements on lyrics or parts of lyrics said in whole or in part.

She accepted the accused did not mean to commit a criminal act, and said: "I do not find anything threatening or abusive in Mr Tussing's behaviour.

"In respect of the first charge and in the absence of evidence, I have doubts of the likelihood of inciting public disorder and by virtue of these doubts I find Mr Tussing not guilty."

Outside court, Tussing, accompanied by his father Frank, said he started following Celtic after watching games at English-speaking pubs in Dusseldorf.

He insisted he meant no offence and added: "I will never go to another game in Glasgow, Scotland or the UK."

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