Twenty-eight Italian police officers went on trial in Genoa yesterday accused of beating anti-globalisation demonstrators at the G8 summit four years ago. Almost 100 people were hurt during the raid on the Diaz school, the then headquarters of the Genoa Social Forum.
Judge Bernardo Di Mattei adjourned the trial to May 19, raising fears the proceedings will take so long that the defendants will exploit a statute of limitations.
Among the accused are Italy's current anti-terrorism chief, Francesco Gratteri, and Giovanni Luperi, the head of an EU taskforce on Islamist terrorism. The charges include grievous bodily harm, slander and false arrest.
Five Britons were hurt in the raid, which followed violent clashes between police and protesters in which one activist was shot dead and hundreds of police injured.
Mark Covell, a journalist and one of the alleged victims, was at the opening of the trial. He told the BBC the beating had left him with a broken hand and eight broken ribs. "One lung was shredded - not punctured, but shredded," he said, adding that he also lost his 10 front teeth.
It is claimed a petrol bomb was planted in the school as a pretext for the raid and that a protester had tried to stab a police officer.
Vittorio Agnoletto, a Communist Refoundation MEP who was a spokesman for the forum at the time, said the trial would decide whether the law was equal for everybody, "whether the police have to respect the law or whether they enjoy impunity".
Mr Agnoletto added: "Some of the defendants have been appointed to senior secret service positions in Italy and Europe. Rather than being punished, they have actually been promoted." Philip Willan, Rome
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