- The Guardian,
- Wednesday July 16, 2008
The 15 Italian police officers and doctors sentenced to jail for brutally mistreating detainees at a holding camp after the 2001 G8 riots were yesterday celebrating their freedom after it became clear that none of them would actually serve prison terms.
Defendants in Italy do not go to jail for most offences until they have exhausted all the appeals to which they are entitled, normally at least two. And in this case, it emerged, the convictions and sentences alike will be wiped out by a statute of limitations next year.
Late on Monday, judges in Genoa where the summit was held convicted 15 accused and acquitted a further 30. Those found guilty, including the camp commander, Biagio Gugliotta, were given jail sentences ranging from five months to five years. The only real effect of the verdict will be to allow the victims to receive compensation.
The court heard that detainees from Britain, Italy, France, Germany and elsewhere were insulted, kicked, beaten and sprayed with asphyxiating gas in their cells. Some were threatened with rape. Others were forced to shout out chants in praise of Italy’s late fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini.
The abuses took place at the camp in Bolzaneto, six miles from Genoa, where more than 250 of those arrested were taken.
Roberto Castelli, Silvio Berlusconi’s justice minister at the time of the offences, said the three-year trial had “dismantled the theory” that the violence was organised by the then-new government as a way of putting a stop to rioting by anti-globalisation protesters at the Group of Eight’s meetings.
The leader of the right’s parliamentary group, Fabrizio Cicchito, said: “There was no systematic repression or torture, but there were mistakes by certain members of the forces of law and order.”
But Paolo Ferrero, a Communist minister in the last centre-left government, called the outcome scandalous. He said it was part of an Italian tradition “of not wanting to shed light on events that really happened”.