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Friday, 27 July, 2001, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
Italian PM: No Genoa cover-up
Silvio Berlusconi
Berlusconi's media companies "hid extent of violence"
The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has told parliament there will be a full investigation into alleged police brutality during the G8 summit in Genoa.

Addressing the upper house, Mr Berlusconi defended his government's handling of security in Genoa.

"As far the government is concerned, we will not cover up anything," he told senators.

Spanish woman's bruised leg
A Spanish woman shows bruises allegedly caused by the police

"If there were excesses... there will be no cover-up for those who violated the law," he said. "But one must not confuse those who did the attacking and those who were attacked."

One demonstrator was shot dead and more than 230 were injured in two days of violence last weekend.

Mr Berlusconi's allies have already rejected opposition calls for a parliamentary inquiry into the violence during the summit. However, Italian prosecutors are investigating the alleged police brutality.

Brutality claims

Protesters from several European countries say they were assaulted by Italian police, who arrested 280 demonstrators in Genoa. Many of the detainees have since been freed.

They lined them up and banged their heads against the walls. They urinated on one person

Police source

But Interior Minister Claudio Scajola threw the blame straight back at the protesters: "They are trying to reverse their responsibilities and to let those responsible for the violence be seen as noble".

Five Britons have described how they were beaten unconscious by officers.

The protesters said they had been wrongfully arrested and had endured four days of inhumane conditions before being released without charge.

An Italian senator in the Democratic Left bloc, Tana De Zulueta, told the BBC that Italy must "ascertain exactly what happened and who was responsible". She has backed calls from two German lawmakers for an international inquiry.

Summit violence
The police say the anti-capitalist protesters started the violence

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the UK Government had "spoken to the Italian administration at the highest level and they have agreed that these allegations will be fully investigated".

As Jonathan Blair, 38, Daniel McQuillan, 35, Richard Moth, 32 and Nicola Doherty, 27, were reunited with their families, they released a statement denouncing the conduct of the Italian police.

They said they had been asleep in a school building in Genoa, doubling as the headquarters of the protest group the Genoa Social Forum, when they were arrested.

"Police indiscriminately batoned those present, mainly young people offering no resistance," the statement said.

They described the place where they were detained as like a "field hospital in the Crimean War" where there were people with broken bones and head injuries.

Bare cells

The statement added: "We were held in bare concrete cells for 36 hours with little food and in conditions of severe mental and sometimes physical stress."

Assassini poster
The first allegation of police brutality came after a protester was shot dead

The Britons said requests to see lawyers were refused while passports and money were taken away.

Referring to the police raid, Senator De Zulueta said some protesters "were actually carried out too injured to walk, inside the sleeping bags in which they had been mauled".

The fifth protester, Mark Covell, 33, is still in hospital in Genoa with serious injuries.

He told the BBC he feared for his life during a brutal attack, which left him with a punctured lung, broken ribs and internal bleeding.

There hasn't been a serious debate, there has been no journalistic scrutiny, at least on television, of what actually happened

Senator Tana De Zulueta

Mr Covell, a journalist who works for a group that publicises anti-capitalist demonstrations, has pledged to begin legal action against the police.

He categorically denied he was involved in any street fighting.

According to Senator De Zulueta, it took four or five days for the worst pictures of the Genoa violence to emerge in Italy.

"It makes us painfully conscious of the fact that the media in this country is under the direct control of the prime minister...

"There hasn't been a serious debate, there has been no journalistic scrutiny, at least on television, of what actually happened," she said.

"We are keen on international interest in maintaining European standards of human rights."

The BBC's Kim Camberg
"Silvio Berlusconi... has told parliament there will be a full investigation into alleged police brutality"
The BBC's David Willey in Rome
"Even the Italian branch of Amnesty International has called for an inquiry"
Forza Italia MP Dario Rivolta
says it was difficult to separate the peaceful protesters from those who were intent on violence
Norman Blair, protester
"It disgusts me"
See also:

22 Jul 01 | Europe
Eyewitness: Genoa police raid
26 Jul 01 | UK
G8 Briton 'feared for life'
22 Jul 01 | Europe
Genoa counts the cost
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