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Last Updated: Monday, 14 August 2006, 05:18 GMT 06:18 UK
Genoa protesters increasingly hopeful
By Chris Summers
BBC News

Several senior Italian police officers are on trial charged in connection with events at the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa, in which dozens of anti-globalisation protesters were injured, many of them seriously.

The trial's end is still months away but the protesters are increasingly confident of the result.

The footage of Mark Covell being beaten
Film, which has since been enhanced, shows police officers beating Mark Covell

The wheels of Italian justice turn very slowly but several recent developments have boosted the confidence of Mark Covell, one of a number of people badly injured during that G8 summit.

In January Mr Covell flew from his London home to testify at the trial of 29 Italian police officers, some of them very senior, who are accused of brutality and perjury following the raid at the Diaz School in Genoa.

The school, run by the Genoa Social Forum, was being used as a base by peaceful anti-globalisation protesters.

Late on the night of 21 July 2001 nearly 300 police officers - most of them dressed in full riot gear - forced their way into the school and assaulted dozens of people inside, many of whom had been sleeping.

Intensive care

Mr Covell, who was covering the summit as a journalist with the Indymedia network, was attacked outside the school gates, knocked to the ground and beaten unconscious.

He spent 12 days in hospital in intensive care and still faces further surgery on his spine and left hand.

Mark Covell
Mark Covell, from London, spent 12 days in intensive care

After the Diaz raid the Italian police claimed they had come under attack from the protesters inside the school, something which has been rubbished by footage which has since emerged.

They also claimed to have found petrol bombs and a variety of weapons inside the school. But it has since emerged that these had in fact been planted by the police themselves.

Many of those held by police at the Diaz School were taken to the Bolzaneto detention centre where they were allegedly tortured and abused for several days.

The Bolzaneto allegations are the subject of a separate trial which is running parallel to the Diaz case.

Could face jail

If convicted the police officers face being jailed for up to 10 years.

A third trial is also under way, involving rioters accused of attacking the police during disturbances earlier that day.

The defendants in the Diaz trial, who include senior commanders such as Francesco Gratteri and Nando Dominici, maintain their innocence.

They claim they were unaware of any excessive violence being used and deny approving the planting of evidence.

Much of the Diaz trial is tied up with video evidence. Footage was taken from the roof of nearby buildings and has since supported the prosecution's case.

Mark Covell
We are trying to get the politics out of the Italian police force
Mark Covell

Independent media consultants at non-profit group Undercurrents worked with a firm of British solicitors and have used software and techniques that previously did not exist to enhance existing and some newly discovered video footage.

Mr Covell said the Diaz and Bolzaneto trials were extremely important in Italy.

He suggested that the verdicts and results of a future parliamentary inquiry would be akin to the Macpherson Report into the Stephen Lawrence case in Britain, which found the Metropolitan Police was "institutionally racist".

He said in general supporters of the right-wing Allianza Nazionale tended to do well in the Italian police and left-wing officers tended to get overlooked for promotion.

"We are trying to get the politics out of the Italian police force. At the moment it is standard practice, when someone is going for promotion, to ask their political views," he said.

He added that this was why the victory in April's general election of the left-wing Romano Prodi was so important.

Verdict in 2007?

"Mr Prodi has promised to launch a parliamentary inquiry into the events in Genoa in July 2001 and has promised a root-and-branch reform of the police force, Mr Covell said.

"Now that the Prodi government is in power the Diaz plaintiffs are expecting much more progress. In the last five years we have faced every obstacle imaginable in trying to obtain justice. But now we hope that there are going to be less obstacles in our path."

Diaz and Bolzaneto victims meeting in 2004
Mark Covell (front row, third left) has joined the Diaz and Bolzaneto plaintiffs

Under the Italian system the Diaz victims become plaintiffs and their lawyers work closely with the prosecutor, Enrico Zucca. Mr Covell has briefed the British human rights lawyer Gareth Pierce about the case and she may appear at the trial later this year.

Both the Diaz and Bolzaneto trials are expected to drag on well into 2007.

Mr Covell is more confident than ever that he will get justice and said: "It's five years since the raid and the majority of us have not come to terms with what happened that night and never will do. Our thoughts are to make sure that the Diaz raid never happens again."

Italy approves Prodi government
23 May 06 |  Europe
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

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