THE GUARDIAN - Brutality trials start for top Italian police

Saturday 12 October 2005

Brutality trials start for top Italian police

· G8 protesters claim they were gassed and beaten
· New laws could render convictions meaningless

John Hooper in Rome
Wednesday October 12, 2005

Seventy-five people, including some of Italy's most senior police officers, go on trial in the next two days, accused of taking part in an orgy of brutality against protesters during and after the demonstrations at the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa.
Court papers seen by the Guardian show that one police witness gave a written statement describing his colleagues "beating young people like wild beasts". Several of the victims were British.
The defendants all deny the charges. Even if found guilty, it looks increasingly unlikely that any will go to prison, or even pay a fine, because of a bill currently making its way through the Italian parliament. The proposed legislation, which critics of Silvio Berlusconi's government say was devised to keep the prime minister's former lawyer out of jail, would render any sentences null and void.
Twenty-five protesters are on trial accused of looting and damage to property.
The first of the two new trials begins today with 47 police and medical staff accused of mistreating arrested demonstrators at a camp at Bolzaneto, near Genoa. Prosecutors allege detainees were beaten and sprayed with asphyxiating gas. They say some were forced to shout out chants in praise of Italy's late fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, and that at least one of the songs was anti-semitic. Charges brought against the defendants range from actual bodily harm to failure to respect international human rights conventions.
Among those indicted is the commander of Italy's penitentiary guards, who was promoted to his position despite being placed under investigation for failing to prevent abuses. The head of the camp's medical staff, Giacomo Toccafondi, is charged with, among other things, failing to report the gassing of detainees.
The second trial, which starts on Friday, concerns the night of July 22 2001, when police in riot gear burst into a school being used as a dormitory by demonstrators. They thought the school was a headquarters for the so-called "black block" protesters who were responsible for much of the violence and vandalism during the anti-G8 demonstrations. Almost a hundred people were injured in the operation which was overseen by some of Italy's most senior police officers.
Three of the victims were left in a coma. No one arrested in the raid was later charged.
After breaking down the door, officers belonging to the 7th anti-riot squad, based in Rome, began kicking and beating those inside with such ferocity that "in the space of a few minutes, all the occupants of the ground floor had been reduced to complete helplessness", the prosecutors said. On the top floor, some demonstrators were hiding in cupboards. "They were discovered, viciously beaten and dragged to lower floors," they allege.
After the raid, police claimed they had found Molotov cocktails on the premises. The prosecutors allege, however, that the homemade bombs were confiscated by police during the demonstrations and planted at the school as part of a "clear manipulation constructed to deceive".
None of the officers on trial has been suspended from duty. In June, the officer commanding the 7th Rome anti-riot squad was promoted.

source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/italy/story/0,12576,1589996,00.html