MADRID (AP) — Four people accused of hanging an effigy of Real Madrid player Vinícius Júnior on a highway bridge were freed Thursday while they are still under investigation for committing a hate crime.

A Spanish judge prohibited the four people from trying to communicate with Vinícius. They also have a temporary restraining order that prohibits them from staying in an area of ​​1 kilometer (0.62 miles) around the Madrid stadium and training facilities and coming within the same distance of any soccer stadium between four hours before and four hours after a match in the Spanish league.

The court statement said the four people are also being investigated for trying to harm Vinícius’ moral integrity. He added that the four chose not to answer the judge’s questions at their first court appearance, in accordance with their constitutional rights.



Vinicius Junior of Real Madrid applauds the spectators before a Spanish League soccer match between Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, May 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

The effigy incident occurred on January 26 in preparation for a derby between Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid.

But it wasn’t until Tuesday that police made the arrests amid a public uproar that has engulfed Spain following the latest episode of racial abuse against Vinícius.

The Police also arrested three people on Tuesday accused of verbally assaulting Vinícius with racist insults during a game on Saturday in Valencia at the Mestalla Stadium, which will have parts of the stands closed for the next five games. Those three were also released.

Vinícius, 22, black, has been the target of repeated racist taunts since he arrived in Spain five years ago from his native Brazil.

In Spain, hate crimes are usually punishable by between one and four years in prison, while crimes against the moral integrity of a person are punishable by between six and 24 months in prison.