Italian police on trial over G8 summit beatings

A group of 29 Italian police officers, including the country’s anti-terror chief, go on trial in Genoa on Saturday in connection with a brutal attack on protesters at the 2001 G8 summit and an alleged plot to justify the violence using fabricated evidence.

About 200 police, revenue guards, prison officers and paramilitary carabinieri stormed the makeshift head-quarters of the umbrella protest group, the Genoa Social Forum, on the night of July 21 and began hitting people - many of them in sleeping bags - with batons, breaking ribs, skulls and limbs .

The raid followed three days of violent clashes in Genoa between police and demonstrators in which one protester was shot dead by a carabinieri conscript and hundreds of officers were injured.

Police at first claimed they had been attacked from the Genoa Social Forum’s headquarters in the Diaz school, and produced two Molotov cocktails as evidence. But prosecutors say the fire bombs were planted there by, among others, the deputy police commissioner of Rome.

Enrica Bartesaghi, the mother of one of those injured in the raid and head of a committee representing the victims, told a press conference in Genoa yesterday that of the 96 people inside the Diaz school, 62 had to be taken to hospital - three in a coma.

Richard Moth, a London social worker, yesterday recalled “screaming with the pain” as nurses in the hospital to which he was taken held him down while a doctor stitched his wounds without anaesthetic.

He said he was then moved to a detention camp, where he and others were further maltreated for several days.

Another 47 members of the security forces face trial in connection with abuses at the camp. Moth is one of five Britons suing the police defendants in the Diaz school trial.

At yesterday’s press conference, Richard Parry, a solicitor for two of the plaintiffs, criticised the British government’s attitude.

“The victims have had no support from the government,” he said.

None of the officers who carried out the beatings is to stand trial.
All were masked at the time and have not been identified.

Green party and leftwing MPs have tabled a bill in the Italian parliament designed to require police to wear numbers while engaged in public order operations.

The unit commanders in-volved in the Diaz raid face charges of failing to prevent the violence, and a number of more senior officers, including the head of the anti-terror police, Francesco Gratteri, are accused of defamation or of making false allegations in the alleged plot to incriminate the victims.

The preliminary hearing - in which all the defendants are expected to deny the charges - has brought many of the back to Genoa for the first time since 2001.

Aitor Balbas (33) a geologist from Pamplona, was one of a group of 11 Spaniards set upon in the Diaz school. Eight decided against returning, and two were still suffering from psychological problems, he said.

Lena Zuhlke (27) a tree surgeon from Hamburg, was left with a broken leg and head injuries, a broken finger, two broken ribs and a punctured lung. Although her medical treatment has now finished, she still has breathing problems. - Guardian Unlimited Â

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