Italian police planted petrol bombs on G8 summit protesters

By Jessie Grimond in Rome

Independent, 30 July 2002

Italian police planted two Molotov cocktails in a school where anti-globalisation pro-testers were sleeping to justify a brutal crackdown during last year's G8 summit in Genoa.

A policeman has confessed that he planted the explosives following a year of acrimony over the handling of security at the summit where a protester was shot dead by the police.

"I brought the Molotov cocktail to the Diaz school. I obeyed the order of one of my superiors," the 25-year-old unnamed officer told prosecutors investigating the summit. The Molotov cocktails were planted in the school to justify the police raids on the school, he said.

His superior, Pietro Troiani, from a mobile police unit in Rome, is already being investigated after another colleague accused him of providing false information to justify the raids.

At the time, the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, insisted that the raids proved that the school held violent anarchists who had wrecked the city. The presence of Molotov cocktails has been held up by the police as justification for their raids on the school. They were shown off to journalists along with a nail bomb, two sledge-hammers and a pickaxe, also said to have been gathered at the scene.

The anti-globalisation protesters who stayed at the school insisted that they were not involved in the violence which marred the summit.

Ninety-three demonstrators were arrested during the raids on the Armando Diaz school on 21 July last year. Sixty-three of them reported serious injuries. Protesters have claimed that they were beaten unconscious by police, deprived of sleep, sexually harassed and denied prompt medical treatment.

There is some confusion about the planting of the petrol bombs. Last week another policeman said that he had seen Mr Troiani bringing the explosives into the school wrapped in plastic. But video footage shot by protesters appears to contradict this, apparently showing a group of police officers holding the Molotov cocktails before the raid without the plastic.

The government has defended the police action in the face of widespread criticism and an admission by the Genoa police chief that his officers used "excessive force". It has accused prosecutors investigating the police of bias towards the protesters.

The Italian opposition has accused Mr Berlusconi's conservative government of "zero tolerance" towards the anti-globalisation movement.

Police were drafted in from around the country for the summit for which 250,000 protesters flocked to the city. Seventy seven officers are under investigation, including the policeman who shot dead a protester, but no one has lost their job.

Amnesty International has condemned the lack of action by the government to bring the police to justice, pointing out that many incidents were caught on camera and were "undeniable". The organisation has accused the police of "arbitrary arrest and the use of torture and ill-treatment".

There have been allegations that the police were well warned about the presence of specific violent elements among protesters but that these warnings were repeatedly ignored, leading to speculation that this was to allow officers free rein for violence.

There are now at least 10 criminal investigations into what happened in Genoa.

Magistrates have notified about 80 officers that they are being investigated for alleged crimes committed during the school raid, the street protests and at the Bolzaneto detention centre where, Amnesty International claims, about 200 protesters were tortured.

Protesters have alleged that the police action was sanctioned by politicians and they have called upon the Deputy Prime Minister, Gianfranco Fini, of the National Alliance Party, to resign.