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Human rights. Recently some Genoa judges ruled against 16 police officers involved, to varying degrees, in the beating of British journalist Mark William Covell during the G8 summit in 2001: €110,000 in damages. We talked to Covell about his case and its legacy.

Italy’s future after Genoa 2001, an interview with Mark Covell

The British journalist Mark Covell, despite himself, is one of the symbols of the 2001 G8 conference in Genoa. He was at the brink of life near the Diaz school, beaten to death by police. This week the Court of Auditors of Liguria has ruled against 16 policemen, ordering them to pay compensation of more than €100,000. We talked to Covell about his case and its legacy.

 

What is your reaction to this news?

Whilst I am happy that the role that Canterini and Fournier had in my attempted murder has been recognized by a financial court (but not a criminal court), I am not happy that the other fourteen police involved had been fined only 10,000 euros for slander and false arrest. Some of the names listed had direct involvement in trying to kill me at Diaz as well as guilty of ‘Codice Blu.’ Canterini was there outside the school (too afraid to lead his men) and did not attempt to intervene to save my life. Indeed, he ordered Fournier to lead the first squad of the seventh mobile down the street towards both schools. Fournier is guilty of being directly involved in attacking me and he knows it. This is why he was late onto the first floor and this is why he could not ‘stop’ the Mexican Butcher’s Massacre inside. I am not happy though, that after almost fifteen years since that night, no other compensation claim for the Genoa G8 2001 Human Rights abuses have either been agreed or paid. Furthermore, I hope one day in the future, to put Canterini, Fournier and some of the others on this list of names on trial for attempted murder. As for the other 14 names indicted to pay compensation for slander, some of them should be on trial for being directly involved in my attempted murder. The €10,000 compensation order is tiny compared to the damage done. If they has succeeded in the false accusations and planting of false evidence, I would be doing 15 years in Pavia prison and an even bigger miscarriage of justice would be happening.

 Are you in contact with Dr. Zucca? What did he say to you?

I have not spoken to Dr Zucca yet, but I am sure that he is a happy man to hear this news. To Dr Zucca, my lawyers, the legal support team and to all our supporters in Italy and all those involved in the case, I would like to say a big thank you for reaching this point in the history of the case. Dr Zucca will consider this a small victory to make people like Canterini and Fournier pay for their crimes.

You were referred to as ‘the ghost,’ due to the fact that out of 340 policemen nobody actually saw you in front of the school. Do you feel any less incorporeal now?

Inside investigation circles of the Diaz case, my case was known as the ‘Ghost’ case because as part of the cover up of my attempted murder, all references and statements written that night were modified or disappeared on the orders of the commanders of the Diaz raid. Despite having 27 other witnesses and several videos connected to my sadistic attempted murder, only two Carabinieri policemen, lieutenant Cremonini and Lieutenant Del Gais made statements that they saw me by the gate. The cover up by over 300 policemen who had to charge past me to get into the Diaz, is staggering. To this day, no policeman has ever actually stepped forward to give full details and evidence concerning my case. This cover up makes my case the most controversial attempted murder case in recent years in Italy. This cover up extended to making false accusations and evidence with the attempt to send me to jail for 15 years, which would have been an even greater miscarriage of justice against me. Of all the victims of Diaz, Dr Zucca holds my case to heart very close because of the fact that the police defendants tried so hard to kill me and then tried so hard to cover up all the evidence. It is with a heavy heart carried by Dr Zucca that he has not been able to bring my attackers to trial. If they were, people would realize that not only were they wanted to torture us but they came into Diaz wanting to kill.

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You mentioned the presence of a Carabinieri van at the school and that their commander, lieutenant Cremonini, was the only one to break the so-called ‘Codice blu’ (Blu Code) assignment. What do you want to tell him?

I want to say thank you to Lieutenant Cremonini for breaking the ‘Blu Code’ and speaking to the prosecutor’s office to give evidence concerning my case. You can hold your head high in the highest traditions of the Carabineri service as a humanitarian and someone who tried to take care of me whilst I was in a coma and dying on the pavement outside Diaz. I am sure though you know more about what happened to me but I can understand that you are too frightened to give further evidence that may lead to more prosecutions of criminal state police concerning my case. I hope to meet you one day to thank you for the evidence you did give because you certainly risked your life to do so.

You have repeatedly asserted that there were two Carabinieri, one of whom intervened during the second beating you suffered at the hands of the police, despite disappearing just before the third beating took place. His name is Del Gais: is he the man who saved your life? 

In all of my statements, I have spoken of a Carabinieri policeman who attempted to save my life during the second attack that broke my hand, ribs and damaged my spine. During this attack by several commanders and 7th mobile men, This unidentified Carabineri shouted Basta! Basta! ….stopped the state police from killing me and dragged me across the street to the gate of Diaz Pertini. For an unknown reason, he could not stay to protect me from the third attack, which cost me most of my teeth and put me in a coma. For years after, I was told by prosecutors that no Carabineri men were part of the initial raid and that I must have misidentified the uniforms – BUT, in the spring of 2010, evidence came to light that there were a few Carabinieri who did become part of an advance party (ahead of the rest of Cremonini’s unit) to assist in breaking down the back door of Diaz Pascoli in the early moments of the raid. It became clear the Lieutenant Ugo Del Gais was with Lieutenant Cremonini and both were there in the early moments of the raid. Lieutenant Ugo Del Gais of 10 BTG Campania Carabineri is a man I want to speak to. I do think he is the man who did try and save my life at Diaz but he has never been fully questioned and I do not know for sure that it is him. If it is, he is a true hero and the Carabinieri need to give him a medal. Whoever tried to save my life, risked their own life and their job to save me. I further understand what would be involved to step forward and claim that you are this person because it would involve naming names. However, now the main Diaz trial is finished, can you summon up the courage to speak the full truth of what you saw?  Are you really the man who tried to save my life? Concerning both men, the Carabineri service should recognize that these men are good Carabineri who tried to protect innocent victims from being killed by crazed state criminal policemen during the Diaz raid and that they coped very well with an extra ordinary situation that was far outside their job description. You have advocated for Italy a third party body of control of police activity, analogous to the British IPCC.

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Do you think we’re anywhere near that? 

An Italian Independent police complaints commission is a good idea for Italy that should be considered by the government. During all the twists and turns of the prosecutor’s investigation the police and the interior ministry hindered, blocked and covered up evidence to protect commanders and rank and file state policemen at Diaz. Whilst I am sure the Carabineri RIS is a fine internal investigation body, it was outclassed and outmatched by the quality and quantity of commanders involved in the raid. Furthermore, they did not have the resources or the men to handle such a large investigation. We would have lost the Diaz case if we had relied on the RIS and their small amount of evidence. Given this situation, I invented ‘Supervideo Diaz’ the biggest compilation of video evidence to overcome this ‘evidence gap’ and to win the case. Whilst I did not mind doing this work, it should not be left to a seriously injured victim to do investigate the evidence himself. This is why an institution like the British IPCC is needed. I do hope that the Italian government, concerned about the image of the police after the conclusion of Diaz, will consider an Italian IPCC to restore confidence in the eyes of the Italian public so that complaints of human rights abuse and murder by police can be properly and independently investigated.

Does this verdict give you any hope for the Italian judiciary?

It’s been a long time coming and I am happy that the court has seen fit to see the role of Canterini and Fournier in my attempted murder. I hope they take the next step and push for the Italian government to settle all other compensation cases still outstanding. The total runs into millions of euros of compensation for over 200 victims of G8. Furthermore, my case of some of the police paying compensation is just the beginning. They should be made to pay all the compensation to all the victims instead of the taxpayer.

What are you feelings today toward Genoa and the whole of Italy?

I love Genoa and its people. I am always made to feel welcome as an Honorary Italian citizen (as awarded by the mayor of Genoa), and I feel like it is a second home to me. Italy is a country that I care passionately about since I have so involved myself in its police forces and governments. Italy has some serious problems, and one of them is the rise of 21st century fascism. I will always be free to help fight fascism in Italy despite that I now turn a page and try to have a new life after Diaz.