Senior officers punished for Genoa brutality

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The Independent Online

The Italian government punished three senior officers in its first action against security forces accused of using excessive force against anti-globalisation protesters at the G8 summit in Genoa.

The Italian government punished three senior officers last night in its first action against security forces accused of using excessive force against anti-globalisation protesters at the G8 summit in Genoa.

The deputy chief of police in charge of security at the summit, the head of the anti-terrorism department and the Genoa police superintendent were removed from their posts and reassigned.

The decision was announced by Claudio Scajola, the Interior Minister, who himself survived a parliamentary no-confidence vote this week for his handling of the summit on 20-22 July, during which police shot dead an Italian demonstrator in three days of riots.

More than 200 people were injured in clashes between the police and demonstrators who tried to break through barriers around the summit headquarters, and 280 people were arrested, including seven Britons.

Five of the British protesters plan to take legal action against the Italian government. Norman Blair, 38, claims he was "kidnapped and tortured" by the Italian state.

Protesters' groups reacted coolly to the government's action. "The main problem remains that thousands of police and carabinieri demonstrated a neo-fascist cultural drift that worries me more than the passing of blame onto the chiefs," said Luca Canarini, spokesman for the White Overalls anti-globalisation group.

Earlier this week, the Italian government bowed to international pressure for an official investigation and agreed to set up a "panel of inquiry" into the allegations of police brutality and torture. But that is unlikely to satisfy critics, including Amnesty International, which has written to the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, calling for an independent inquiry. The panel will deliver its report by mid-September.

The police were particularly criticised for an overnight raid on a school serving as the headquarters of the Genoa Social Forum, which left 60 people badly injured, including Briton Mark Covell, who suffered a punctured lung and broken ribs. Activists arrested in the raid accused the police of beating them without provocation. Many were carried out on stretchers, covered in blood.

Police said they had to crack down hardbecause activists resisted arrest and attacked a policeman – a version rejected by injured protesters – and that they found objects in the school that could be used as weapons.

The interior ministry has launched its own inquiry into police conduct during the summit. Prosecutors in Genoa have also opened an investigation into the allegations of police brutality.

The summit, attended by 2,000 delegates, left the city of Genoa with a multimillion-pound clean-up bill. Italian authorities dispatched 20,000 police and paramilitary carabinieri amid fears of violence from the 100,000 demonstrators.

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