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Fear and Torture: Inside a Genoa Jail

by CounterPunch Saturday, Aug. 04, 2001 at 6:23 AM

I declare that this is a true and honest statement which I have written on Friday 27th July 2001. I permit it to be used by other individuals and agencies who support me and all the other people arrested at the Scolastico A. Diaz and surrounding area on the night of Saturday 21st July 2001. I state that I wish to sue the Italian police for illegal arrest, kidnapping and torture and I ask for support in doing this. Please contact me via e-mail.

July 31, 2001

Inside a Genoa Prison

Beatings, Abuse

and Retinal Scans

by Jonathan Norman Blair

I declare that this is a true and honest statement which I have written on Friday 27th July 2001. I permit it to be used by other individuals and agencies who support me and all the other people arrested at the Scolastico A.

Diaz and surrounding area on the night of Saturday 21st July 2001. I state that I wish to sue the Italian police for illegal arrest, kidnapping and torture and I ask for support in doing this. Please contact me via e-mail.

I went to Genoa to participate in the mass demonstrations against the G8 and its policies. I went because I believe in a free and equal society with people living in harmony with each other and the ecological system. I flew out with my friend Dan McQuillan on Tuesday 17th July (our return flight was on Monday 23rd July) on Ryan Air from Stansted to Genoa.

On Saturday night we were staying at the Scolastico A. Diaz. The school was having renovation work done on it but as far as I was aware, it was legally occupied and the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. It was directly

opposite the media centre and the Genoa Social Forum

administrative base. It was a big building with several floors, old with high ceilings. Through the front doors was a large hallway. On the left was a ramp leading up to a

line of computers. To the left of that were stairs leading to the first floor where Dan and I were staying.

The room we stayed in had a window view onto the courtyard at the front of the school and was directly opposite the media centre with a narrow road


I went to bed about 12 o'clock on Saturday night. Staying in the room was Dan and a guy from New Zealand who I now know to be Sam Buchanan. I was

dozing off and then I suddenly heard a crashing, roaring sound coming from outside. I quickly got out of my sleeping bag and looked out of the window. I saw a mass

of police made up of squads from various cities (I know this from the documents that the judge gave me when I was released) filling the street outside.

One of my memories was of the police with shields charging down the street followed by 2 police vans. There were people in the street shouting and screaming. It was a nightmare of sound. I presume that this is the

point that Mark Covell (another UK national) was critically injured by the police as he was crossing the street.

I began rapidly putting my clothes on and looked out

of the window again. I saw the police van ram the school gates. We began to push our bags into the corner of the room hoping that if they came along the scaffolding that the police wouldn't see us. I heard people screaming in pain from downstairs.

It took about a few minutes before the police smashed down the door to our room. They smashed our door down and had a large searchlight, which they

shone into the room. As soon as they saw us they were on us. There was maybe about a dozen of them, it was complete chaos. Dan was completely battered by them all

down his left side, he had his wrist broken and he had

blows to the head.

Sam was battered over the head three times. When I met him in the prison afterwards, he said that each time he was hit that it was like in a cartoon book as he saw stars and sparkles from the force of the blows. I received blows while we were on the floor and have bruises, but nothing in comparison with the others.

I don't know how long this lasted, maybe just a couple of minutes, maybe a bit longer. I could feel the venom and hatred from them. They eventually left the room and as we lay there in a pool of blood they threw some of the window frames and other furniture on top of us. It was as if they were the destroy squad and then a minute or so later came the 'retrieval' squad.

They told us to get out of the room and as we went down the stairs the police were lined up and were hitting us with their batons. It was as if they had gone berserk and they were getting in each others way trying to get

to us. We moved down the ramp into the main hall area. We were told to get on the floor and had to lie kneeling on the floor, head down and arms stretched out in


At one point someone who I assume had been badly beaten up outside was brought into the hall on a stretcher. This lasted about maybe 15-20 minutes (it

was difficult to tell the passage of time in this situation) till the medical workers and ambulances arrived. Dan was bleeding heavily. The ambulance crew arrived and began ripping up cardboard boxes to make splints as they did not have enough equipment to deal with the number of broken bones.

Of the 93 people arrested, over 60 went to hospital and remember, this was not for minor injuries but for broken bones and head trauma. One man was completely battered down his back and did not go to hospital. Dan was put on an ambulance trolley and I was holding his hand and helping him. I demanded to go with Dan to the ambulance because he was in such a state and could not speak Italian. The police were reluctant to let me leave but the paramedics insisted.

With them we made our way to the ambulance outside. As we were leaving the building, the police tried to rip a money belt off Dan. I unclipped it so they wouldn't hurt Dan further. One cop began flicking through the money belt and we haven't seen it since. It contained Dan's passport, at least one credit card and several hundred pounds of English and Italian money.

We were taken to the Galliera (?) Hospital, in Genoa. In the ambulance the crew were really friendly to us, in the hospital with police around they were not. It felt like a police state with police in complete command. I sat in

the waiting room while Dan was being treated. I felt terrified. I saw a pay phone and had a phone card on me. I rang my girlfriend Mel and another friend about Saturday 1.10am British time. I left a message that we had been attacked and that I was OK but Dan was in a hospital badly injured. When trying to make a third call I was stopped by a police officer.

The people taken to hospital had fairly serious injuries and had to sit on chairs waiting. The police had taken over the hospital. As I understand it people with such traumas (eg head injuries) should be under medical

observation for 24 hours. There was a group of about a dozen of us in the hallway, under police guard. They then started moving us to a police van. I had to sit on the

floor for the journey. Dan was also in the van. We were driven to a holding centre called Bolzenato (I was told later by other prisoners. I am not sure if this is the correct spelling or name). It did not appear to be an

official police station or prison. It was a place of a terror

and fear.

On getting out of the van the first thing we had to do was to put our hands up and face the wall with legs apart (in a spread-eagled position). The police were kicking our feet apart if they thought that our feet were too

close together. One police officer who kicked my legs looked about 18 years old (I was old enough to be his father!). We were made to face the wall in this position and there was a row of us. A police officer came behind me and speaking English in an Italian accent said 'who is your government'. The person before me in the row had answered 'Polizei', so I said the same. I was afraid of being beaten.

I think at this point they took our names and addresses.

They then took us to a cell. The cell was quite large with a high ceiling, heavily barred windows and high doors. We were told to sit down with our backs against the wall. People in the cell, especially young people were

crying a lot of the time. They were traumatised. I tried to lock inside myself, stay calm and strong.

At one point we had to stand with our hands against the wall, arms up for an hour and 15 minutes with police screaming abuse at us. For all I knew there was a police officer behind me with a truncheon ready to beat me across the back.

There were different voices screaming abuse, I was lucky I didn't understand Italian. My hands and arms went dead, I felt strange sensations in my palms. It was helpful to me to meditate, to focus my mind. It was physically hard

to keep that position for even a short length of time. Dan with a broken wrist and head injuries also had to do this.

The cell itself was freezing, the floor had ceramic tiles and it was cold even in the daytime. I had on a cotton shirt and jeans only. Dan was wearing shorts and a thin shirt, he did manage to get a sleeping bag, I can't remember

how, but we all shared it.

At one point the police took Dan out of the cell. We didn't know what was going to happen to him. Later on I heard this woman shouting 'please help me, please help me' over and over. This was torture, it was psychological and physical warfare. The torture consisted of:

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