Indymedia seizures: a trawl for Genoa G8 trial cover-up?

Injunction sought to prevent export of journalists' data

Updated Indymedia and other interested parties are to seek an injunction preventing the export of the contents of the servers that were seized last week. This content is thought to have included correspondence with lawyers involved in the case against Genoa police accused of grievous bodily harm, falsifying evidence, slander and abuse of police powers, during and subsequent to the 2001 G8 summit.

The servers housed data belonging to a number of Indymedia journalists, including Mark Covell, who was beaten close to death by Genoa police, and is now involved in actions against them. One demonstrator was shot dead by police. Covell told The Register that email to his lawyers in Italy is likely to have been on the servers, and that a number of separate challenges to the seizures were pending. The injunction is likely to be sought by human rights solicitor Gareth Peirce within the next 24 hours.

The seizures are understood to have been carried out on behalf of the Swiss and Italian governments, with some involvement on the part of the FBI. Swiss authorities have reportedly said the data could help its investigation of Indymedia's coverage of the 2003 G8 in Evian (which is of itself an interesting choice of investigation subject), and the most obvious Italian connection is Genoa G8. Here, however, the Italian government's most likely interest is not in pursuing G8 'information terrorists' (charges of this sort were thrown out some time ago), but in the defence of the Genoa police now in the dock.

But earlier today Indymedia Italy said it had confirmation that the seizure order originated with Judge Marina Plazzi in Bologna. Plazzi is in charge of investigations concerning the FAI (Informal Anarchist Federation) and bomb threats made to EU Commission president Romano Prodi, and the order was made regarding alleged posts published on Indymedia Italy in connection with these.

But, says Indymedia, there are two problems with this. Indymedia insists that FAI does not use its networks, and points out that Italian law could have been used to further the enquiry in the first instance. Indymedia would have been likely to cooperate over the alleged posts, but has had no direct approach from the Italian authorities concerning the matter, who appear to have chosen to seize entire servers in order to acquire small pieces of 'evidence' that quite possibly don't even exist.

The UK Home Office's approval and support was required for the raid, but these would have had to have been granted on the basis that it was a legitimate request for assistance in obtaining evidence, not a fishing expedition intended to provide support for a cover-up. If however the data is transferred to Italy it seems likely that the case against the Italian state over Genoa will have been seriously compromised.

Although it was at first thought that the seizures had been carried out under a US-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), it now seems possible that the framework used was a European version to which the UK, Italy and Switzerland are signatories. The FBI's involvement therefore remains unclear, although it may have been approached initially because the hosting company, Rackspace, is US. MLATs, whose operation is cloaked by secrecy and gagging orders, are intended to provide a mechanism for signatories' security forces to obtain evidence and to make arrests internationally, and they are disturbingly dependent on the bona fides of the requesting party and the judgment of the requested one.

In this case, the latter is the Home Office, which is coming under pressure to explain itself. Richard Allan, Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam, has tabled a written question for David Blunkett for answer tomorrow (Friday). ®

Related Links

Seized servers returned, but who wanted what?
Home Office in frame over FBI's London server seizures
Feds seize Indymedia servers

Sponsored: Designing and building an open ITOA architecture