'My name is cleared at last' - film shows police brutality at Genoa G8 summit

In January 2005, I met a clearly distressed young British journalist who told me of being beaten up by the Italian police during the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001.

Four years on, Mark Covell was still suffering from both the physical and psychological effects of that savage attack as he recounted his injuries: eight broken ribs, smashed teeth, a collapsed lung and internal bleeding. He lost consciousness and slipped into a coma.

He found it difficult to talk about what had happened and when he did try, he shook badly and often appeared close to tears. "You've never seen anything like it," he said several times.

Indeed, I had no conception of what had really happened to him and to more than 100 other young journalists and activists who decided to spend the night bedded down in the Armando Diaz school in Genoa on 21 July 2001.

Now, a further eight years on, I understand at last just what Mark and so many others suffered because I've seen the movie, Diaz – Don't Clean Up This Blood. The scenes in which the baton-wielding police indiscriminately beat the defenceless young people, all apparently innocent of any crime, were almost impossible to watch.

Then came worse still - the humiliating and brutal treatment meted out to people once they reached the police station, some of them after being dragged forcibly from hospital.

The film also reveals how police planted evidence - two Molotov cocktails - in order to justify their raid. None of the activists had weapons.

If it were not for the fact that, after an interminable judicial process, 25 officers were eventually convicted for grievous bodily harm, libel and falsifying evidence, you could be forgiven for thinking it was an agit-prop movie that exaggerated what happened.

Mark, a UK Indymedia journalist, is depicted in the film because he had the misfortune to be the first person assaulted by the police. He had ran out of the school to witness the squad of 300 police storming through the gates.

His brave reporting effort ended with him being clubbed to the ground, viciously kicked by several policemen and left lying in a coma as officers charged over him into the school.

In all, 93 people were seriously injured. It amounted, said Amnesty International - as quoted in the movie - to being "the most serious suspension of democratic rights in a western country since the second world war."

Mark was finally vindicated, to an extent, when the Italian interior ministry agreed in September 2012 to pay him compensation of €340,000 (£280,000) in an out-of-court settlement.

In return, Mark, who is still suffering from his injuries, had to agree to drop proceedings against the Italian government at the European court of human rights. He is also the only one of the 93, thus far, to receive his money.

The settlement came three months after Italy's highest court upheld the convictions of 25 officers for grievous bodily harm, libel and falsifying evidence.

But none of them will go to jail for their crimes. Some senior officers may be suspended for five years, but all the sentences were reduced by the statute of limitations.

Mark therefore has mixed feelings about that. He said immediately afterwards: "It's legal history and I am overjoyed, but they did try to kill me and none are going to jail, so is this justice?"

He is still hopeful that a further 40 officers will be convicted. Those verdicts are due on 14 June. And all of the victims who have campaigned for justice have also been pushing for Italy to introduce a torture law. "That would be one piece of good to come from all this," says Mark.

As for the film, Mark believes it is an accurate portrayal of events. "It is based on 10,000 court documents and the evidence of victims and eye-witnesses. It is very, very good. Of course, so much happened, it's impossible to convey it in a single movie."

Diaz – Don't Clean Up This Blood, a French-Italian-Romanian movie, was released in Germany last February and went on to win an award at the Berlin film festival. It has also been nominated in 13 categories for the Donatellos (the Italian Oscars).

It is due to be shown at selected London cinemas from 3 June and in Belfast on 16 June to coincide with the Northern Ireland G8 summit. A DVD will go on sale on 10 June.

I cannot finish without mentioning why Mark originally contacted me. It was because he awoke from his comatose state to find a Daily Mail reporter and photographer in his Genoa hospital room, which was under armed guard.

I wrote about his legal action against the Mail in 2005, which resulted in him being paid undisclosed damages and costs. One baffling aspect of the paper's intrusion was how the journalists managed to persuade the police to allow them into the room.

Evidence has since emerged in Italy which concludes that payments must have been made to obtain entry. But it remains a mystery Mark still wishes to solve. After 12 years, he remains as determined as ever to get at the truth.

He says: "It's been a very long road to clear my name. No-one believed me. No-one believed any of us. The film tells it as it was."

Incidentally, four other Britons - Nicola Doherty, Richard Moth, Dan McQullian and Norman Blair - were caught up in the bloody events that night. They are still waiting for justice.