A police van with three AFM soldiers arrives at the Valletta Law Courts lock-up facilities
The violent death of a 32 year-old Malian migrant at the hands of Armed Forces personnel has - as expected - raised a political storm as three soldiers have been arraigned in court tonight charged with murder and perverting the course of justice.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi expressed his deep sorrow at the tragic news, remarking that it was shocking to see how a human being, who escaped the horrors in his country and sought refuge in Malta, had to meet such a terrible death.
While urging all to uphold the principles of innocence until proven guilty, the Prime Minister announced that he has launched an inquiry to look into all aspects of the mandatory detention policy for migrants.
This morning, Opposition leader Joseph Muscat called for transparency and responsibility over the incident, while Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson Michael Briguglio called for an immediate review of Malta's migrant detention policy, and hit out at what he described as "populist politics, racism and unreasonable detention of asylum seekers are the real problem with respect to the politics of migration."
An AFM Sergeant, a Lance Bombardier and a Private were remanded in custody after pleading not guilty to the long list of charges compiled by Inspector Keith Arnaud from the Police Homicide Department.
Clive Cuschieri, 29 of Paola and Mark Anthony Dimech 44 of Gzira were charged with murdering Abdalla Mohammed, 32, causing him serious injury and committing a crime they were all duty bound to prevent.
The two cried as the charges were read out, and turned to their families who were present inside the court room throughout the proceedings.
Private Gordon Pickard, 35 of Zabbar was accused of perverting the course of justice.
Lawyer Franco Debono who appeared for Cuschieri claimed that the murder charge imposed on his client was excessive, and distorted the fact that all three accused had families and had gone out for a normal day's work.
His colleague, Edward Gatt who appeared for Mark Anthony Dimech argued that the police had slapped such a heavy charge on his client to "satisfy media's thirts", while lawyer Mark Busuttil said that his client Gordon Pickard did absolutely nothing, except for being in the Detention Van.
Prosecutor Inspector Keith Arnoud responded to the lawyer's claims explaining that the police were "nobody's puppets" adding that investigators had spent some 17 hours on the case and never looked at what the media said.