Italian officials found guilty of abusing G8 protestors

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Official G8 group portrait.

Fifteen Italians including police officers, doctors and prison guards were found guilty of abusing and beating protesters at the G8's 27th summit in Genoa in 2001. A judge handed down jail terms between five months' and five years' imprisonment. The charges include abuse, fraud, criminal coercion and inhuman and degrading treatment. Another thirty defendants were cleared of charges, including assault.

In June last year former deputy police chief of Genoa, Michelangelo Fournier, belatedly admitted in court that police had "butchered" protesters. In a graphic description of the violence he said he had kept quiet until then "out of shame and a spirit of comradeship".

The heaviest sentence was five years for Biagio Gugliotta in the penitentiary police department, the commander on duty at the camp at Bolzaneto. Twelve other police officers, eight men and four women, received jail terms of five to 28 months. Doctors Giacomo Toccafondi and Aldo Amenta were given 14 months and 10 months respectively. Dr. Toccafondi was accused of insulting detainees and failing to inform authorities after they were sprayed with asphyxiating gas in cells. The judges issued their verdicts after 11 hours of closed-doors deliberations.

All those convicted are expected to appeal and none will go to prison until the appeals process is complete, which normally takes years. The sentences totalled less than a third of 76 years what had been demanded by the prosecution. The BBC's David Willey in Rome says it is unlikely that any of those sentenced will actually serve time in prison because their offences will have expired under Italy's statute of limitations before the appeal process is completed. It is expected the Italian government will be forced to pay out millions of pounds to those who were victims of police brutality during their detention.

Protestors burn a police vehicle which was abandoned by police durning a clash with protestors.
Image: Ares Ferrari.

Police were accused of organised and premeditated brutality at the Diaz High School which protesters were using as a dormitory during the summit. In another ongoing trial, 28 defendants, including some of Italy's most senior police officers, face charges related to the raid on the school. The raid left seventy-three protesters injured with three in comas. A judge ruled that there was no evidence to show any of those demonstrators had been involved in the violence in Genoa.

More than 250 of those arrested were taken to a holding camp that had been created at Bolzaneto, six miles from Genoa. The detainees at Bolzaneto included about 40 who were arrested in a raid on the Diaz school. During the trial the court heard how the holding centre had been the scene for "episodes of torture that violated human dignity." One of the prosecutors in the case, Patrizia Petruziello, said that 40 protesters who were arrested suffered "four out of five" of the European Court's criteria for "inhuman and degrading treatment".

Of the 252 demonstrators who claimed abuse, strong evidence emerged in at least 209 cases considered during the trial. Demonstrators said they were strip-searched, spat at, insulted, verbally and physically humiliated, beaten and sprayed with asphyxiating gas. Some were threatened with rape and sodomy. They were denied food, phone calls or access to consulates while detained. While being held they were forced to sing songs in praise of Italy's late fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini and other antisemitic songs about Chile's Augusto Pinochet, which which included the line "Death to the Jews." The prosecution claimed that this was torture.

The 2001 summit in the northern Italian city was one of the most violent in the history of the G8. Between 100,000 and 200,000 demonstrators took part in anti-globalisation protests. A 23-year-old Italian demonstrator Carlo Giuliani was shot dead by a conscript Carabiniere and hundreds more injured as two days of riots erupted at the summit in the city of Genoa that was hosted by Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi. In December 2007, 24 demonstrators were found guilty of damage to property and looting. They were given sentences ranging from five months to 11 years.

The trial has lasted nearly three years.


Wikipedia has more about this subject: