Uproar As Top Police Cleared of Attack on Genoa G8 Protesters

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The Guardian/UK

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

by
John Hooper

GENOA - 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.

Backstory

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.

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