Home Page


BBC: Witnesses recall bloody G8 police raid


Witnesses recall bloody G8 police raid
The first British witnesses have given evidence in the trial of
several Italian police officers charged with brutality and perjury
during the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001.

They are alleged to have organised a raid on a school building where
protesters slept, beating them up and planting evidence on them. BBC
reporter Bill Hayton, who happened to be present during the raid, was
the first to give evidence.


An injured protester

When I am asked to describe what I had seen inside the Diaz School
that night - the large pools of fresh sticky blood on the floors - I
feel almost as upset as when I had seen it the first time

Bill Hayton
I have written many stories about Italian court cases in my career:
cases against the mafia, alleged terrorists and a case involving the
affairs of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

All of them I covered from London. This time, for once, I am at the
court house - but I am not covering the story, I am the story.

And this will be the only report I write because the BBC has sent a
colleague, its new Rome correspondent Christian Fraser, to cover the
trial as an unbiased observer.

There are currently three trials taking place in Genoa about the two
days of rioting during the 2001 summit. Twenty-five protesters face
charges relating to smashing shop windows, burning cars and other
property damage.

But the police are also on trial: one group of 29 in connection with
the beatings at the Diaz School and another, larger, group of police
and prison officers in connection with the abuse of detainees at the
Bolzanetto prison.

All of the trials take place in the same courthouse and tie up huge
numbers of lawyers, officials and witnesses.

Police lawyers

Police lawyers talking during a lull in proceedings
I am a witness for the prosecution in the Diaz case and a key part of
my evidence is my mobile phone bill.

The timing of my calls to the BBC on the night of the raid show the
sequence of events: when the raid started, when I was detained by the
police and when I was freed.

This is significant because the raid on the protesters' media centre,
where I was based, took place without a search warrant.

I arrive at the court at 0930, but there are problems. The building
is being renovated and the usual courtroom is unavailable.

There are not enough chairs or microphones in the alternative room.
The police lawyers are particularly concerned that the witnesses have
adequate facilities. The prosecution lawyers say they are just
looking for an excuse to delay the trial.

Under the Italian statute of limitations certain cases cannot be
pursued after seven-and-a-half years.

The prosecution fear that even if the officers are convicted they
would appeal and if that appeal was not concluded by the end of 2008
many of those on trial would go free.

But after an hour of legal argument, extra chairs and microphones are
found and my testimony can begin.

I am surprised at how draining, and at one point emotional, it is.
When I am asked to describe what I had seen inside the Diaz School
that night - the large pools of fresh sticky blood on the floors - I
feel almost as upset as when I had seen it the first time.

The Genoa riots

Before the raid, anarchist groups rioted in the centre of Genoa

Right at the end, the defence lawyers object to the fact that I had
looked at the phone bill during my testimony - witnesses in Italian
courts are not supposed to have documents with them. They could have
objected at any point during my evidence.

The fact that they have waited until the end makes me suspect that
they simply wanted my testimony thrown out of court.

Luckily for me, the prosecution and the Italian taxpayers who have
financed my trip to Genoa, the judge rules that since my phone bill
has already been entered in evidence I have not broken any rules.

I sit down. Next up is Hamish Campbell, from the anti-capitalist
film-making group Undercurrents. He filmed the whole raid as he hid
behind a water tank on the roof of a nearby building - a very brave guy.