Italy investigates allegations of police brutality against protesters in Genoa

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The Independent Online

The Italian government launched an investigation yesterday into allegations of police brutality against protesters detained at Genoa during demonstrations against the G8 summit.

In a bid to stave off growing international criticism of alleged human rights abuses and government complicity, three Interior Ministry officials spent the weekend in Genoa for an internal inquiry into the violence.

The investigation is divided into three strands; allegations of police brutality during the protests, the raid on the sleeping quarters and offices of the Genoa Social Forum, and alleged abuse carried out in the detention cells at the Bolzaneto police station.

The three inspectors, who have been questioning senior police officials, are expected to present their report to the Interior Minister today. However, their findings are likely to do little to stem the growing tide of protest from home and abroad. Foreign demonstrators who were arrested and have now returned home have been giving graphic accounts of beatings, gratuitous violence, lack of access to lawyers and consulates and suspension of ordinary human rights.

Five British protesters who claim they were abused by the police announced they are planning legal action against the Italian government. Norman Blair, 38, claims he was "kidnapped and tortured by the Italian state.

"I have contacted lawyers in Italy and I'm going to be taking legal action against the police in Italy, as is everyone else who was arrested," Mr Blair said.

"I want to see the police officers on trial and imprisoned. I also want the people who gave the orders called to account," he said.

Mr Blair, Daniel McQuillan, 35, Richard Moth, 32, from north London, and his girlfriend, Nicola Doherty, 27, were released after appearing before a magistrate last Wednesday.

The other freed Briton, Mark Covell, 33, from London, remains in an Italian hospital where he is being treated for internal bleeding and broken ribs.

Alfonso Sabelli, a senior Prisons Department official in Italy, confirmed that many of those arrested in the raid on the forum's premises were badly beaten. "There was violence. The medical evidence is clear," he said. However, he denied that it was prison police who committed the abuse. "Before they arrived at Bolzaneto the activists had been held for many hours by the police who arrested them," he said.

The social forum also charged that at least 18 people, many of them foreigners, were still unaccounted for a week after the summit.

"We are continuing to carry out checks but we don't know what has become of these people. They are not in jail, not in hospital and quite frankly we don't think they have gone to the beach, as [Foreign] Minister [Renato] Ruggiero ironically suggested," said Vittorio Agnoletto, a spokesman for the forum.

The missing are being calleddesaparecidos, a reference to the disappeared of the Argentinian dictatorship.

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