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Last Updated: Monday, 7 February 2005, 10:09 GMT
Ghosts of G8 haunt Genoa
By Chris Summers and Irene Peroni
BBC News Website

More than 70 Italian police officers, many of them senior commanders, are about to go on trial accused of orchestrating a campaign of police brutality at the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001 and then organising a huge cover-up.

Before 9/11 and the arrival on the scene of al-Qaeda, the western world's Public Enemy Number One was the violent anti-globalisation protesters who disrupted several major summits.

We are prosecuting the commanders, those who had the responsibility for the whole action. They are the ones who ordered it and then ordered the cover-up
Enrico Zucca
Prosecutor

Certain anarchist groups, such as Black Bloc, revelled in attacking police and smashing up shops belonging to global brands such as McDonald's, Nike and Starbucks.

The level of violence at summits rose from Seattle in 1999 (World Trade Organisation summit) to Washington DC the following year (World Bank/IMF summit). There were also riots at an EU summit in Gothenburg in June 2001.

So when the leaders of the G8 nations, including Tony Blair and George W Bush, arrived in the Italian city of Genoa in July 2001 everybody knew what was in store.

The vast majority of the 100,000 anti-globalisation protesters were peaceful but a small minority were intent on violence.

They clashed repeatedly with police on the streets close to the Red Zone, the fenced-off area where the summit was taking place.

On the Friday a protester, Carlo Giuliani, was shot dead by police and his death ramped up the tension and mutual hatred.

The summit ended on the Saturday afternoon and the clashes died away.

The Genoa riots
The riots were led by the anarchist Black Bloc
But just before midnight on 21 July 2001 a squad of around 200 masked riot police officers, armed with batons and shields, arrived at a school two miles from the Red Zone.

The Armando Diaz school complex was being used to house dozens of protesters.

Across the street was an alternative media centre being used by Indymedia journalists such as Mark Covell, who was one of five Britons staying at the Diaz.

Mr Covell was beaten unconscious and received several broken ribs, a fractured hand and the loss of all his front teeth.

British victims
(L to R) Norman Blair, Nicola Doherty, Richard Moth and Dan McQuillan
Mark Covell, then aged 33, from London
Norman Blair, 38, from Newport, Wales
Dan McQuillan, 35, from London
Nicola Doherty, 26, from Elgin, Scotland
Richard Moth, 32, from London

Other injuries included an American who was kicked so hard in the groin that he will never be able to father children.

Forty of those arrested at the Diaz were taken to a holding centre at Bolzaneto, outside Genoa.

There they were submitted to physical and verbal abuse, including being threatened with rape by officers who were singing fascist-era songs.

The international media was then duped into believing the Diaz was a hotbed of violent resistance.

Two Molotov cocktails were planted and police also showed off an array of knives, sledgehammers and pickaxes which they claimed to have found on the premises.

One enterprising officer, Massimo Nucera, also claimed to have been stabbed and produced a damaged jacket to prove it.

Mark Covell
Mark Covell was unconscious for 14 hours after being attacked
Tests on the jacket later showed the stabbing was faked, and it later emerged the penknives had been used to prepare food in the school kitchen and the tools were from a nearby building site.

Mr Covell told BBC News Website: "Everybody staying at Diaz was peaceful. We had nothing to do with Black Bloc. They found nothing in that building which was incriminating. It was a conspiracy to justify the brutality with trumped-up charges."

By the time the truth emerged the world's media had lost interest in Genoa and the public was left only with the memory of riots by unkempt hooligans.

A Downing Street spokesman said at the time: "The Italian police had a difficult job to do. The prime minister believes they have done that job."

More than 70 officers, including the second-highest ranking officer in Italy's anti-terrorist unit, Franco Gratteri, face charges ranging from false arrest to aggravated slander and abuse of office. There are separate trials relating to Diaz and Bolzaneto.

The aftermath of the attack at Armando Diaz School
A councillor from Genoa Social Forum sees the aftermath of the raid

Because police at the Diaz that night were all masked and did not have numbers or names on their uniforms - such identification is not required by law in Italy - it was impossible to attribute acts of violence to individual officers.

Only one, Luigi Fazio, has been charged with assault.

So the prosecutor, Enrico Zucca, has targeted the commanders.

He told BBC News: "We are prosecuting the commanders, those who had the responsibility for the whole action. They are the ones who ordered it and then ordered the cover-up."

He said he had come under political pressure from all sides to drop the charges but he insisted the trial would go ahead.

"Every political party in Italy wants to keep their distance from this matter. We have come under political pressure to drop it, not in a direct way but indirectly," said Mr Zucca.

Everybody staying at Diaz was peaceful...They found nothing in that building which was incriminating. It was a conspiracy to justify the brutality with trumped-up charges
Mark Covell

The SILP police union represents several of those on trial. National secretary Claudio Giardullo told the BBC News Website: "In the months before the G8 in Genoa, the government built up a law and order strategy of a military type, which was meant to have a heavy-handed approach in maintaining law and order.

"The focus was more on this than on preventing violence and defending the city of Genoa.

"I am not saying there were any written guidelines or orders in this sense, but by not saying that clashes (between police and demonstrators) must be avoided at any cost you create all preconditions for incidents to take place."

'We trust the judiciary'

He added: "The Italian police trust the judiciary and want the truth to be ascertained as soon as possible. Personal responsibilities must be established, and those who have made mistakes must pay.

The Italian police trust the judiciary and want the truth to be ascertained as soon as possible. Personal responsibilities must be established, and those who have made mistakes must pay
Claudio Giardullo
National secretary, SILP police union
"But generalising would be a mistake. A relationship of trust between police forces and society is fundamental, because this prevents divisions which don't allow a democracy to work properly."

It is not only the police who are facing justice as a result of the events of July 2001.

The trial of 26 alleged rioters began last year and is only halfway through.

The Genoa Justice Campaign, set up by the mother of Sara Bartesaghi, one of the injured demonstrators, is demanding a full apology for the police's actions by the Italian government.

It also wants those injured, arrested and deported to be fully compensated.

Preparing for next summit

The events of Genoa 2001 are a salutary reminder to British police as they prepare to "welcome" anti-globalisation protesters to the next G8 summit at Gleneagles.

The hotel, near the Scottish town of Auchterarder, is hosting the next summit in July.

Its remote location has been chosen to help security arrangements.

Chief Superintendent Brian Powrie of Tayside Police, who is in charge of policing the summit, told BBC News: "We have been planning for a year now, looking at all the contingencies to make sure we have a fully equipped, highly trained, flexible resource to police both the summit and any other events related to it.

"We have also been looking at the security surrounding a number of large scale events, including previous G8 summits, sharing intelligence and working with other agencies."




SEE ALSO
In pictures: Italian police accused
06 Feb 05 |  In Pictures
'I still have nightmares'
06 Feb 05 |  Europe
Eyewitness: Genoa police raid
22 Jul 01 |  Europe
Italy police face G8 raid trial
13 Dec 04 |  Europe
G8 crackdown for eight-year-olds
28 Dec 04 |  Scotland

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