BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Four people accused of hanging an effigy of Real Madrid player Vinícius Junior from a highway bridge were released from custody Thursday while they remain under investigation for alleged hate crimes.
A Spanish judge in Madrid banned four people from trying to communicate with Vinícius. They also have a temporary restraining order banning them from entering the 1 kilometer (0.62 mile) area around Madrid’s stadium and training facilities and from coming within the same distance of any football stadium between four hours before and four hours after a Spanish league match .
The court statement states that four people are also being investigated for attempting to undermine the moral integrity of Vinícius. It is added that the four decided not to answer the judge’s questions during their first court appearance, in accordance with their constitutional rights.
The incident with the character happened on January 26 in preparation for the derby match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
But it was only on Tuesday that police made an arrest amid the public unrest that has gripped Spain following the latest episode of racial abuse targeting Vinícius.
Police also detained three people on Tuesday accused of verbally abusing Vinícius with racial slurs during Saturday’s game in Valencia at the Mestalla Stadium, where parts of the stands will be closed for the next five games. Those three were also released from custody.
Vinícius, 22, who is black, has been subjected to repeated racist taunts since arriving in Spain from his native Brazil five years ago.
In Spain, hate crimes are usually punishable by one to four years in prison, while crimes against moral integrity are punishable by six to 24 months behind bars.
Also on Thursday, Spain’s Ombudsman’s Office asked the country’s Higher Council for Sports, the government’s sports body, for more information about racist abuse directed at Vinícius during the game in Valencia. The office said it had received complaints from “two Brazilian civil society organizations” about the abuse and was in contact with its counterpart in the South American country.
The ombudsman’s office said in a statement that Spanish law prohibits any acts of racism, xenophobia or intolerance during sporting events.
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