Tottenham's defender Assou-Ekotto banned for three games for backing Anelka
Tottenham Hotspur defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto
Tottenham Hotspur defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto was banned for three games and fined by the Football Association on Friday after sending Nicolas Anelka a message of support following his controversial "quenelle" gesture last season.
Former France striker Anelka made the gesture -- widely regarded as anti-Semitic -- having scored for West Brom against West Ham on December 28.

The Baggies later sacked Anelka following their own internal investigation.

Assou-Ekotto was charged after sending a tweet to Anelka congratulating him on the gesture. He will now serve a ban and pay a £50,000 ($82,000, 64,000 euros) fine.

Hull striker Yannick Sagbo previously served a two-game ban and was fined £15,000 after also publicly backing Anelka, while Samir Nasri and Mamadou Sakho escaped with warnings for similar offences.

But Cameroon international Assou-Ekotto, on-loan at QPR last season and now omitted from Tottenham's Premier League squad, will face a more severe punishment, with the FA, English football's governing body, confirming the details on their website.

"Following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing, Benoit Assou-Ekotto has been suspended for three matches and fined £50,000, subject to any appeal, after he denied an aggravated breach of FA Rule E3," the FA said.

"The Tottenham Hotspur player was also warned as to his future conduct and ordered to complete a compulsory education course. He was also ordered to pay the full costs of the hearing.

"Mr Assou-Ekotto was charged by The FA with improper conduct concerning social media postings relating to the quenelle gesture performed by Nicolas Anelka in December 2013...The FA considered the comment to be an aggravated breach, as defined in FA Rule E3(2), in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief."

- 'Unintentional breach' -

Assou-Ekotto had claimed he was congratulating Anelka on taking an "anti-establishment" position and was in no way anti-Semitic.

Lawyer Peter Griffiths, the chairman of the regulatory commission, appeared to agree with that assertion by saying: "Even though we have found that there was an aggravated breach of FA Rule E3 we are satisfied that when the Player sent the tweet on the 28th December 2013 congratulating Anelka, in his mind he believed he was congratulating Anelka on what he perceived to be an anti-establishment gesture as opposed to one associated with anti-Semitism."

With north London side Tottenham long having had a large number of Jewish supporters, Assou-Ekotto announced in a release to Britain's Press Association from his lawyer, issued before the FA's decision was announced, that he was pleased the governing body had acknowledged he was not anti-Semitic.

"The FA will today release the findings of its Disciplinary Panel in relation to charges brought against me following a Tweet I posted in December 2013," it read.

"I am obviously very pleased that the FA has accepted I am not an anti-Semite. I have always said that when I tweeted Nicholas Anelka I was congratulating him on an anti-establishment gesture and NOT on an anti-Semitic gesture. I am also therefore pleased that the Panel has found this to be true.

"The finding against me was that I breached the FA's rules but that my breach was unintentional.

"I have always loved the fans of Spurs and I want to assure them that I would never knowingly behave in a racist or anti-Semitic manner."

Anelka went on to represent West Brom on four more occasions before an FA ban of seven games -- upon which the former Arsenal and Chelsea striker announced he was leaving the club.

The 35-year-old has not played since but has recently signed for Mumbai City ahead of the inaugural Indian Super League.

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