Page last updated at 15:28 GMT, Tuesday, 15 July 2008 16:28 UK

'I lost the best years of my life'

Mark Covell
Mark Covell was left in a coma for two days

Fifteen Italian officials have been convicted of mistreating protesters during the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa.

Mark Covell was one of five British anti-globalisation protesters who was injured and has been seeking justice ever since.

"This was not just giving a few hippies a slap around, this was systematic," Mr Covell said.

A journalist with alternative media organisation Indymedia at the time, he was present when police raided a high school where protesters were camping during the summit.

He was left with eight broken ribs, a shredded lung, a broken hand, 16 missing teeth and was in a coma for two days.

While he was on a life-support machine in hospital, 81 others were arrested and taken to a temporary prison camp outside Genoa, at Bolzaneto. The police chief tried, and failed, to take him too.

'Mixed result'

Here they were threatened, beaten and insulted. The prosecution said they were tortured.

On Monday, after 11 hours of deliberations, judges convicted 15 people of charges ranging from assault to denial of basic human rights. Thirty others were cleared.

Mark Covell
Mr Covell now suffers from post traumatic stress disorder

The stiffest sentence was handed to camp commander Antonio Gugliotta who was given five years, while the others received between five to 28 months.

Speaking from Italy, Mr Covell told the BBC News website: "It's a mixed result for us. Obviously we would have liked a larger amount of police officers to be convicted.

"But when we started people said we had a one million to one chance of reaching today."

The judge said there was "no doubt" a serious crime had taken place at Bolzaneto and there had clearly been mental and physical suffering inflicted without any justification.

"He said he wanted to impose much longer sentences of 10 years for some of the defendants and what they did. But there is no law on torture here," said Mr Covell.

'Condemned and disowned'

The victims will receive compensation, the judge ordered emergency payment of 10,000 euros to each victim and a total of 15m euros will be paid to victims in the long term.

Now 40, Mr Covell says that is small comfort.

"The money is good, but you can never recover from something like this. I have lost the best years of my life with what happened on 21 July," he said.

"We have spent seven years fighting these cases. I will die 10 years younger than I should because of the physical damage to me. All of us have huge issues with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"We have been forgotten about. We were condemned and disowned by our own governments around Europe."

The fight for justice continues. A second trial over the police raid at the Diaz school is ongoing.

They also plan to take the case to the European Court of human rights, where the defendants can be prosecuted under torture law.

"We want the Italian government to bring in new torture law, and a public inquiry. We want to cut the cancer of Fascism from the police, whether we achieve that, I don't know."

But he says he has no regrets about being in Genoa that day.

"I don't think anyone would have realised the Italians would react in such a horrific way. We can only hope something positive can come from it for us and the Italians, " he said.

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