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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006, 18:54 GMT
Witnesses recall bloody G8 police raid
The first British witnesses have given evidence in the trial of several Italian police officers charged with brutality and perjury during the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001.

They are alleged to have organised a raid on a school building where protesters slept, beating them up and planting evidence on them. BBC reporter Bill Hayton, who happened to be present during the raid, was the first to give evidence.

An injured protester
When I am asked to describe what I had seen inside the Diaz School that night - the large pools of fresh sticky blood on the floors - I feel almost as upset as when I had seen it the first time
Bill Hayton
I have written many stories about Italian court cases in my career: cases against the mafia, alleged terrorists and a case involving the affairs of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

All of them I covered from London. This time, for once, I am at the court house - but I am not covering the story, I am the story.

And this will be the only report I write because the BBC has sent a colleague, its new Rome correspondent Christian Fraser, to cover the trial as an unbiased observer.

There are currently three trials taking place in Genoa about the two days of rioting during the 2001 summit. Twenty-five protesters face charges relating to smashing shop windows, burning cars and other property damage.

But the police are also on trial: one group of 29 in connection with the beatings at the Diaz School and another, larger, group of police and prison officers in connection with the abuse of detainees at the Bolzanetto prison.

All of the trials take place in the same courthouse and tie up huge numbers of lawyers, officials and witnesses.

Police lawyers
Police lawyers talking during a lull in proceedings
I am a witness for the prosecution in the Diaz case and a key part of my evidence is my mobile phone bill.

The timing of my calls to the BBC on the night of the raid show the sequence of events: when the raid started, when I was detained by the police and when I was freed.

This is significant because the raid on the protesters' media centre, where I was based, took place without a search warrant.

I arrive at the court at 0930, but there are problems. The building is being renovated and the usual courtroom is unavailable.

There are not enough chairs or microphones in the alternative room. The police lawyers are particularly concerned that the witnesses have adequate facilities. Some of the legal team working on the case against the police say they are just looking for an excuse to delay the trial.

Under the Italian statute of limitations certain cases cannot be pursued after seven-and-a-half years.

The prosecution fear that even if the officers are convicted they would appeal and if that appeal was not concluded by the end of 2008 many of those on trial would go free.

But after an hour of legal argument, extra chairs and microphones are found and my testimony can begin.

I am surprised at how draining, and at one point emotional, it is. When I am asked to describe what I had seen inside the Diaz School that night - the large pools of fresh sticky blood on the floors - I feel almost as upset as when I had seen it the first time.

The Genoa riots
Before the raid, anarchist groups rioted in the centre of Genoa

Right at the end, the defence lawyers object to the fact that I had looked at the phone bill during my testimony - witnesses in Italian courts are not supposed to have documents with them. They could have objected at any point during my evidence.

The fact that they have waited until the end makes me suspect that they simply wanted my testimony thrown out of court.

Luckily for me, the prosecution and the Italian taxpayers who have financed my trip to Genoa, the judge rules that since my phone bill has already been entered in evidence I have not broken any rules.

I sit down. Next up is Hamish Campbell, from the anti-capitalist film-making group Undercurrents. He filmed the whole raid as he hid behind a water tank on the roof of a nearby building - a very brave guy.




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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