Uproar as top police cleared of attack on Genoa G8 protesters
• Junior officers sentenced, but will not go to jail
• Savage beatings left some peaceful victims in coma
- guardian.co.uk, Friday November 14 2008 00.01 GMT
- The Guardian, Friday November 14 2008
- Article history
There was uproar in a Genoa court last night after some of Italy’s highest-ranking police officers, accused of masterminding a savage attack on peaceful protesters at the G8 meeting in the city seven years ago, were cleared of the charges against them.
The area reserved for the public erupted into chants of “shame, shame” as the presiding judge finished reading his verdict. The mother of one of the victims clambered on to a crash barrier and screamed: “We’ll have our revenge”.
Enrica Bartesaghi, the head of a pressure group formed by victims’ relatives, told the Guardian: “My daughter was beaten so badly she was taken to hospital. She will receive €5,000 [£4,300]. Unfortunately, ours is no longer a civilised country. The sentence is an insult [to her].”
The three judges handed out sentences of up to four years to some of the operational commanders. But none of them will have to go to jail, because their offences will expire under a statute of limitations early next year.
None of the officers who carried out the beatings was a defendant in the trial. All were masked, and none wore names or numbers during the raid. Only one has ever been identified.
Among those acquitted were Giovanni Luperi, who has since been put in charge of the Italian equivalent of MI5, and two of Italy’s most senior detectives, Francesco Gratteri and Gilberto Calderozzi. Several of the top police officers accused in the trial were filmed standing outside the building as the beatings proceeded.
Almost 30 people were taken to hospital after the raid, several in comas. An Italian judge subsequently ruled that none of those staying at the Armando Diaz school had had any part in the intensely violent rioting or looting that marked the anti-corporate globalisation protests in Genoa.
A statement issued by some of the victims accused the Italian police of acting “outside the democratic order”. It added: “That is possible because they know they enjoy total impunity, as this sentence confirms.”
Mark Covell, from Reading, one of five Britons injured in the attack, said: “The evidence was overwhelming. There is no justice here. I feel sorry for Italy.”
Evidence was brought by the prosecution that police had planted two petrol bombs at the school to try to show that its occupants were violent subversives. But only the junior officers who carried the Molotov cocktails on to the premises were convicted, and their sentences and convictions have also expired under the statute of limitations.
Last night’s impassioned scenes came after four years of legal wrangling. Preliminary hearings in three cases arising from the most violent of G8 protests began in 2004. The first to conclude ended in December last year, when 24 demonstrators were found guilty of damage to property and looting. They were jailed for between five months and 11 years.
In July, 15 police officers and doctors who were on duty at a holding centre near Genoa were found guilty of brutally mistreating detainees, including many from the Diaz school. The court heard of threatened rapes, sadistic maltreatment, and of detainees being forced to bark like dogs and sing anti-Jewish songs.
Those convicted of the abuses received sentences of up to five years in jail. But, again, none will serve time. The sentences, together with the convictions, will be cancelled when the statute of limitations takes effect next year.
At least 150 police officers stormed the Armando Diaz school on the night of July 21 2001, after three days of violence in Genoa that left more than 200 people injured and a protester dead. Police chiefs later claimed the school was occupied by the violently disruptive Black Bloc faction. If that is what rank-and-file officers were told, it may explain the viciousness with which they laid into the protesters. Briton Nicola Doherty was hit so hard on an arm with which she was shielding her face that her wrist was broken. The attack put 28 of 93 people arrested in hospital – three of them on the critical list. Mark Covell, a volunteer with the Indymedia news network, was unconscious for 14 hours. He suffered eight broken ribs, a punctured lung and 10 missing or broken teeth.