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Croatia defender Simunic fined for pro-Nazi chant

Croatia's Josip Simunic listens to the national anthem before their 2014 World Cup playoff soccer match against Iceland in Zagreb November 1
Croatia's Josip Simunic listens to the national anthem before their 2014 World Cup playoff soccer match against Iceland in Zagreb November 1

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatian public prosecutors have fined soccer international Josip Simunic 25,000 kuna ($4,400) for pro-Nazi chants he shouted at a stadium in Zagreb, following the World Cup playoff victory over Iceland.

At the end of Tuesday's 2-0 win, Australia-born Simunic took the microphone at Maksimir Stadium, turned to the stands and shouted "Za dom" (for the Homeland), to which the audience replied "Spremni" (Ready).

The call-and-response salute is widely associated with Croatia's Nazi-allied Ustasha regime, which ruled in 1941-45 and brutally persecuted Jews, Serbs, Gypsies and anti-fascist Croats.

In a statement on its website, prosecutors of the Zagreb county court said on Thursday Simunic was found guilty of public disturbance and inciting ethnic hatred.

"He was aware that it symbolizes the official salute from the time of Croatia's totalitarian regime and as such represents a racist ideology," the statement said.

Simunic said in a separate statement he meant nothing wrong.

"As a Croatian who was born and grew up outside my homeland, I associate home with love, warmth and positive struggle - everything we showed on the pitch to win our place in the World Cup," he said.

It was not immediately clear if Simunic faced other sanctions as well.

The Jutarnji List daily newspaper quoted an official of FARE (Football against Racism in Europe) as saying Simunic was likely to be suspended for several games.

Local media also reported FIFA, the world soccer governing body, was looking into official match and FARE reports before ruling on Simunic.

The win over Iceland earned Croatia a place at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

($1 = 5.6827 Croatian kunas)

(Reporting by Zoran Radosavljevic; Editing by Alison Wildey)

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