|Italian police officers convicted of violence at 2001 G8 Genoa Summit
An Italian court has convicted 13 police officers of violence against antiglobalisation protesters at the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa, when demonstrators were beaten up, spat on and threatened with rape.
Telegraph | November 14, 2008
After a four year trial, the court acquitted 16 other, more senior officers of the abuses, to cries of "shame, shame" from activists awaiting the verdict.
The 13 convicted policemen were found guilty of inflicting violence and abusing their powers during a predawn raid on a school where protesters, including British activists, were staying in Genoa during the Group of Eight meeting.
A lengthy appeals process and a statute of limitations which annuls sentences after a given period of time mean that none of the convicted are actually likely to spend any time in prison.
Police raided the Diaz school at the end of a summit marred by massive protests, with some groups turning violent and rampaging through the city.
Many of the Italian and foreign activists in the school said they were attacked while they slept and described acts of extreme brutality by Italy's paramilitary Carabinieri.
Three people were beaten unconscious and dozens had to be taken to hospital after riot police burst into the school and arrested more than 90 protesters, including British, French and German activists.
Britons caught up in the violence described police indiscriminately beating people with their batons, saying the place where they were later detained was like a "field hospital in the Crimean War" full of people with broken bones.
Freelance journalist Mark Covell told the BBC after the attack: "I though I was going to die. I could hear my bones breaking inside. My lung collapsed. Most of my ribs on my left hand side are smashed. My spleen is ruptured.
"That was just the first attack. Then the second one came in. They hit me again, just because I moved a bit. I just moved my arm, and they hit me again, sustained for about five or 10 minutes."
Images of blood plastering the walls and floors of the school sparked an outcry in Italy and abroad.
At least one of the officers convicted, Michelangelo Fournier, confirmed some of the allegations, testifying that police beat up defenceless people and left the school looking like a "butcher's shop". He said he had kept quiet "out of shame and a spirit of comradeship" with police colleagues.
Fournier, a top official in Rome, received a two-year sentence. The rest of the convicted received sentences ranging from one month to four years and were ordered to pay financial compensation to the victims.
During demonstrations by antiglobalisation activists during the summit, a protester was shot dead by a carabinieri police conscript, more than 200 people were injured and 240 were detained.
Many of the policemen who were on trial are still in service and some have since been promoted.
Two are currently senior officers in Italy's anti-terrorism unit and the secret service.
Prosecutors had asked for much heavier sentences.
"Today is one of the saddest days in the post-war history of the republic," said Vittorio Agnoletto, one of the organisers of the anti-globalisation movement and now a member of the European Parliament for the Communist Refoundation party.
"From now on police chiefs who allow their men to smash the heads and the backs of people sleeping peacefully can be sure of impunity and the guarantee of a fine career."
Interior Ministry Undersecretary Alfredo Mantovano, of the right-wing National Alliance party, said the sentence showed Italy's police force is "healthy and deserves everybody's gratitude".
During the summer another Italian court convicted 15 Italian officials of abusing protesters in detention at a police garrison in Genoa. Those detained told the court that they were kicked, beaten and forced to chant slogans in praise of former fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
Last year, judges also convicted 24 protesters of devastation and looting, giving them sentences ranging from five months to 11 years in prison.
The G8 summit attracted between 100,000 and 200,000 demonstrators, the majority of whom were peaceful.