20 of the PublixTheatreCaravan detainees freed
01 August 2001
On 15 August 2001 twenty members of the Austrian PublixTheatreCaravan were freed by a Genoa court after spending three weeks in Alessandria and Voghera (women) prisons on remand - they have been expelled from Italy with a five year banning order. See for background on their arrest and detention
Five others remain in prison on a technicality, having failed to appoint a lawyer within the relevant time limit. The twenty-five poeple were arrested on 22 July near Genoa, when police stopped their van and accused them of being part of the so-called "Black Block", using pen-knives, black t-shirts and theatre material as evidence for these claims.
People arrested in connection with disorder in Genoa are accused of belonging to an "armed organisation aimed at destruction and looting". This charge carries possible sentences of between 8 and 15 years in prison. Italian law enforcement agencies consider the "Black Block" to be an "organisation" rather than a tactic involving attacks on symbolic locations during mass demonstrations. Claims of "possession of weapons", using a loose interpretation, and possession of black clothes have been considered sufficient to try to charge persons with belonging to this group.
Defence lawyers will challenge claims that an armed criminal organisation was at work. Most of the demonstrators arrested during and after the G8 summit have now been freed, ten Germans remain in custody on remand (a measure which has been confirmed by the courts), as does a man from Turin and the five remaining members of the Austrian theatre group. The fact that people are being released from custody does not mean that they will not face charges, as the courts still have to rule on whether prisoners should stay in custody on remand, not on the merit of individual cases against them.
After their release, foreign prisoners received an expulsion order barring them from Italy for five years and were escorted to airports, train stations or the Italian border. These orders were issued by the Genoa head of police (pretore) due to "public order" concerns, and because the people were deemed to be "socially dangerous". This does not imply that the expellees were presumed guilty.
The Genoa Legal Forum, an organisation of lawyers acting in defence of the demonstrators, says that it is taking steps to appeal against these expulsions, which it deems illegal. Those expelled can initiate legal action with a view to an appeal, free of charge, within a month of being expelled. (further information on appeals against expulsion at: www.genoa-g8.org/urgente.htm)
Germany to challenge legality of Italian "expulsion orders"?
The German government is considering lodging a complaints with the European Commission over its decision to expel German protestors and ban them from entering the country for five years. Italy says that Germans arrested at Genoa would have to apply for special permission to re-enter Italy within this period. The German Foreign Ministry maintains that such restrictions can only be imposed if a person has been found guilty of a criminal offence (Financial Times, 13.8.01).
Updated: 17.8.01: The five remaining people held in prison have been released by the court because of insufficient evidence to bring any charges.