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Prosecutors: G8 Protesters Were Abused

Associated Press | March 14 2005

GENOA, Italy -- About 150 protesters detained at the Group of Eight summit in northern Italy in 2001 were kicked, slapped, tripped, kneed in the groin and dragged by their hair, according to a report.

Prosecutors in Genoa released a 534-page report over the weekend detailing "inhuman" and "degrading" behavior by police officers, corrections officers and doctors at the Bolzaneto police garrison, Italian media reported Sunday. The extent of the brutality has prompted comparisons to the abuse and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

The report denounced what it said was a violation of human rights but stopped short of describing the abuse as torture.

What happens next is unclear: Nearly four years have gone by, and unless the judicial process is put on a fast track the statute of limitations could run out, Milan daily Corriere della Sera reported. The prosecutors themselves, in their report, suggested presenting their findings to Europe's top human rights court.

About 500 people were taken to the garrison following a raid against anti-globalization protesters during the 2001 summit, according to Corriere.

The pre-dawn raid on the Diaz school in Genoa, which housed many protesters, was one of the most controversial episodes of the July 2001 summit. Some protesters said they were attacked as they slept. Police said they were acting on a tip that violent demonstrators were hiding in the school.

The entire summit was marred by violence. A 23-year-old protester was shot dead by police, more than 200 were injured and more than 300 people were arrested. The city was ravaged.

In October, a policeman was convicted of clubbing a teenage demonstrator in the face and ordered to serve 20 months in prison. In December, a judge ordered 28 police officers to stand trial for their alleged brutality in the raid. The start of the trial was set for this April.

But protesters said the abuse wasn't limited to the streets, continuing after they were detained.

Those held at Bolzaneto -- many of them from other European countries and the United States -- said they were physically and mentally abused. They said they were deprived of food, water and medical care.

Foreign detainees said it took days to see their lawyers and consular officials. Some European countries lodged formal protests, and the United States expressed concern.

The report acknowledged finding "grave jeopardy to people's rights" at the hands of 15 police officers, 16 corrections officials, 11 Carabinieri paramilitary police and five doctors, the Corriere and ANSA news agency reported.

The prosecutors found that a "welcoming committee" at the garrison insulted, kicked and pushed the detainees upon arrival.

The prosecutors also said the abuse included shoving people's heads in toilets, forcing at least one detainee on his hands and knees and making him bark like a dog, and the threat of sexual assault, according to ANSA. Female prisoners also were forced to strip in front of male officers.

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