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Udpated | Bail for AFM soldiers accused of Malian migrant’s murder

Court grants bail to AFM soldiers charged with Malian migrant’s murder after court hears 13 witnesses.

Miriam Dalli
10 July 2012, 12:00am
The Magistrate's Court in Valletta
Sergeant Mark Anthony Dimech, 44 of Gzira and Gunner Clive Cuschieri, 29 of Paola have been granted bail by Magistrate Saviour Demicoli against a €9,000 deposit each and a personal guarantee of €30,000.

The two soldiers, from the AFM's First Regiment who were stationed at the Safi Detention Centre are pleading not guilty to the involuntary homicide of 32-year-old Mamadou Kamara from Mali, causing him serious injury and committing a crime they were duty-bound to prevent.

Family and friends present throughout the proceedings were in tears as the court upheld the accused request for bail after spending more than a week under preventative arrest at Corradino Prisons.

Both Dimech and Cuschieri were ordered to sign daily at a police station at 8am and 8pm, but no curfew was imposed.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Rachel Tua are appearing for Cuschieri, while lawyer Joe Giglio is defending Dimech.

After over five hours of hearing witnesses summoned by the prosecution, delayed by an hour and a half caused by a bomb scare, the court heard how Dimech was revered to by his colleagues, described as a "hero".

In the compilation of evidence, several detention services officers (DSO) taking the witness stand said that Dimech had in the past "acted bravely when he ran into a burning room to save a migrant, risking his own life".

Lieutenant Nicholas Camilleri, in charge of the Safi detention centre, not only spoke highly of Dimech but also told the court that he would have acted in the same way as Dimech did in trying to hold down a "violent migrant".

Inspector Arnaud was weary of why two officers had been placed with Kamara at the back of the van, known as the "cage", when he escaped.

But Camilleri argued that he would have done the same.

Dimech and Cuschieri stand accused of the involuntary homicide of Kamara, who died after suffering blows to his genitals and to his back and sides.

Inspector Arnaud said that he had arrested Dimech and Cushcieri together with three others on suspicion of foul play.

During the interrogation, it turned out that Dimech, Cuschieri and Lance Corporal Gordon Pickard - accused of obstructing justice - agreed to say that Kamara had been aggressive all along, including while he was on his way to the Paola health centre where he was certified dead.

Later on during the interrogation it transpired that when Kamara escaped for the second time at around 11:30pm on Friday night, he was apprehended by Dimech and Cuschieri in Triq il-Qlajja, Safi.

It also transpired that this was the first time that Kamara had acted violently, while before he "didn't act normal but was never violent".

Kamara was pinned to the floor by Dimech, who was trying to hold his hands as the two AFM officers weren't carrying any handcuffs. However, Kamara reportedly resisted the arrest, and at one point almost managed to get up with Dimech still holding on to him.

During the scuffle, Kamara bit and hit Dimech as Cuschieri started kicking him, reportedly "not more than five times". Arnaud said that even though Dimech claimed that he didn't hold Kamara down so that Cuschieri could hit him, he admitted to not giving any orders to stop the beatings.

According to Arnaud, Cuschieri had aimed for the thigh but he missed as Kamara continued to resist.

During that moment, Pickard arrived with his private car and ordered Cuschieri to go and park his [Pickard's] car and to bring the detention services van near them.

With Cuschieri in the driving seat and Pickard and Dimech sitting in the back with Kamara, the van made its way to the detention centre to collect the handcuffs before proceeding to the Floriana health centre.

At the detention centre, DSOs Frans Scerri and Mark Cuschieri testified that they had given their handcuffs to Pickard and Dimech to cuff Kamara.

Both said that Kamara was lying down on his right side, with his head towards the door of the van while Pickard sat next to his head and Dimech sat next to his feet.

Scerri said that Pickard turned Kamara on his back to handcuff him and bind his feet.

Both Scerri and Frans Cuschieri said Kamara didn't offer any resistance. However, Pickard, who was in charge of the DSOs that night, ordered the two men to sit in the back with Kamara.

The two DSOs said they followed his orders, no questions asked.

But as they were about to leave the centre, both Scerri and Frans Cuschieri testified that Dimech, Clive Cuschieri and Pickard stopped by their office, got out of the van and spent three minutes talking in the office.

Back in the van, the group proceeded to the health care centre, with Dimech saying they should go to Paola being the nearest.

Scerri said that one point he checked Kamara's pulse, but when he felt nothing he thought he had checked in the wrong place. All the way, Kamara didn't move and the DSOs said nothing to the army officers sitting in front.

When they arrived at Paola, Dimech and Cuschieri went immediately to see a doctor because of their injuries while Pickard went in to bring a wheelchair for Kamara. It was then when Scerri told Pickard that Kamara wasn't moving. Before the doctor came down, Pickard told Scerri and Frans Cuschieri that they were to say that Kamara had been struggling in the van and had been aggressive.

The two DSOs once again agreed to obey Pickard's orders.

While interrogating him on true version of events, Inspector Arnaud said Dimech told him he didn't know that Kamara had died until the doctor said so. Arnaud also said that at one point, the sergeant started crying, insisting that he "didn't want to betray anyone".

The prosecution summoned 13 witnesses to basically ask them what was "the normal procedure" to be used when a "violent migrant becomes an escapee".

But one by one, Gunners and DSOs testifying in court said that usually migrants are placed in the "cage", while a driver and an escorting officer sit in front.

In particular, Gunner Paul Mario Muscat said that in the case of a migrant who would be "really violent", he would be handcuffed but no officer would be placed with him in the cage "for the safety of both".  

From various witnesses, it turned out that Kamara's strange behavior at the clinic and at the detention centre never was aggressive but that he would sing, dance, take other people's clothes, complain of headaches and insist that he had stomach pain, all the time mentioning the word "baby".

At one point at the Floriana health centre, he reportedly boasted with the officers how he had managed to escape in 2009. To the officers, this seemed strange as no one usually reveals how they escaped.

It then turned out that Kamara was in fact the father of a 7-month old but whom he had never seen. The mother of the child, Mary Seguna, had last seen Kamara when she was one month pregnant and their baby was not registered under his name.

The court also was told that Cuschieri and Dimech had been on a 24-hour shift, while only six DSOs were placed with the 195 migrants at B Block. After complaining about Kamara, the migrants threatened they would either "beat him up" or "start a riot".

Dimech said he decided to transfer Kamara to Hal Far, before he managed to escape bolting through the gate and jumping off the fence.

At one point, Dominic Seguna, a DSO stationed at Hal Safi, said that Kamara had been "a pain in the arse all along" and that "one had to spend time with them [migrants] to know what they are".

Seguna also said that if Kamara - who he referred to as "Bob Marley" at one point - had been kept with the other migrants, they would have turned him "into a black omelette by morning".

He also said that at one point there were "20 migrants hanging onto the fence like monkeys ready for him".

Franco Debono points out defects in migration policy

Meanwhile, backbencher Franco Debono took the opportunity to criticise former minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici for the state of the detention centres and the migration policy.

The court was hearing how Dimech, as the detention service duty officer (DSDO), was responsible of both the Hal Far and Hal Safi centre, amounting to over 1,000 migrants.

"[Dimech and Cuschieri] are victims of someone - and we all know who - who failed to address the policy and the system. How can they do their job adequately and protect themselves if they have no taser guns and no pepper spray?" Debono said.

"And then I find myself representing someone who had nothing to defend himself with, accused of involuntary homicide."

Debono said that it was unacceptable the two accused had been working 24-hour shifts and that the migrant to officer ratios was vastly disproportionate.  He added that the case had nothing to do with racism.  

"The officials in charge of detention centres have to shoulder the blame for the shortcomings of the state."

Miriam Dalli graduated in communications studies from the University of ...
Vince Axiak
Antoine-I must agree with Ray-speak to the real issues here; if you wat assylum elsewhere-do all Maltese a favour and go.
Twani Cassar
Second correction of my first comment, which, I admit, I wrote in a state of frustration and anger, at the thought that soldiers accused of murder are free to walk in the streets. Indeed, the case is not closed and the sentences are yet to be decided; my comparison with the punishment for the shooting of Star was thus unfair, at least at this stage. No policeman, soldier, licensed or unlicensed bouncer has yet been brought to justice for the deaths of Suleiman, Ifeanyi and Osama, so it's difficult to be optimistic that the Maltese courts will have the courage to serve justice this time round. In any case, if there is any chance that the soldiers will serve a prison sentence, it's only human to let their families spend time with them before they are locked away. Thank you for your replies and explanations. Enough for now.
Twani Cassar
Second correction of my first comment, which, I admit, I wrote in a state of frustration and anger, at the thought that soldiers accused of murder are free to walk in the streets. Indeed, the case is not closed and the sentences are yet to be decided; my comparison with the punishment for the shooting of Star was thus unfair, at least at this stage. No policeman, soldier, licensed or unlicensed bouncer has yet been brought to justice for the deaths of Suleiman, Ifeanyi and Osama, so it's difficult to be optimistic that the Maltese courts will have the courage to serve justice this time round. In any case, if there is any chance that the soldiers will serve a prison sentence, it's only human to let their families spend time with them before they are locked away. Thank you for your replies and explanations. Enough for now.
Twani Cassar
Second correction of my first comment, which, I admit, I wrote in a state of frustration and anger, at the thought that soldiers accused of murder are free to walk in the streets. Indeed, the case is not closed and the sentences are yet to be decided; my comparison with the punishment for the shooting of Star was thus unfair, at least at this stage. No policeman, soldier, licensed or unlicensed bouncer has yet been brought to justice for the deaths of Suleiman, Ifeanyi and Osama, so it's difficult to be optimistic that the Maltese courts will have the courage to serve justice this time round. In any case, if there is any chance that the soldiers will serve a prison sentence, it's only human to let their families spend time with them before they are locked away. Thank you for your replies and explanations. Enough for now.
guido cutajar
Minghajr ma nidhol f`dan il kas, ser NIGGENERA fil kumment li nixtieq naghmel.Issa li kieku ( haga li tista tigri issa stess )suldat Malti jigi maqtul min emigrant illegali.Ovvjament ser imur il habs ghal zmien twil.Mela dan gie fostna illegalment, qeghedin nistmawh daqs wiehed minnha, nitimawh inlibsuh, niehdu hsieb sahtu,joqtol lil xi hadd,u nibqaw nitqannew bih ghal zmien twil gewwa il habs, u jigi ir responsabbilta tat tax payer.Hekk sew ? Mhux ahjar l-awtorita tnehhi din il BOROKRAZIJA kollha u lil dawn in nies tara li jigu skrutinati sa tlett xhur li jaslu ghawn. Min huwa gewwa u min jitlaq il barra, ghaliex qeghedin inhalluhom is snin maqfulin, minghajr ma ghamlu l-ebda reat, hlief li kontra il volonta taghhom dahhalnihom gewwa pajjizna.
Peter Bartolo
And who's this imbecile Franco Debono calling these perpetrators Dimech and Cuschieri 'victims'? Yes Franco it was so unfortunate they didn't have taser guns or pepper spray and as a result made their 'JOB' difficult and had to resort to punching another human being to death. Comments like these coming from a political figure are actually concerning and not to mention pretty disturbing.
Peter Agius
@antoinecassar You obviously do not know what you are talking about.Bail deposits and personal guarantees are not fines. They are a guarantee by the accused, so that he will be released from preventive arrest until the case comes up in the Magistrates' Court (small offences) or before a Jury (as in this case). Skip bail by not honouring one of the conditions imposed by the Magistrate and you will be re-arrested, lose your deposit, and if not found you will also lose your personal guarantee, which is usually done on your personal belongings or those of family or friends.
Vince Axiak
Yet another example of the ridiculous state of security in Malta-I thought I had seen it all when I witnessed security gaurds at the 2004 Malta-Poland game playing catch with the gaurd dogs; this is just another black eye for not only our Forces, but the sad state of affairs of all levels of Government having anything to do with migrant issues. 24 hour shift? How was the migrant not properly restrained if it was known he was at risk to flee? how about the use of excessive force? I am aware of the challenges and risks our troops face in the centers, but duty and professionalism must be adhered to, and by all accounts-that is not the case.
Manuel Mangani
The greater the degree of detachment, the greater the chances that justice will be done. http://manuelsmumblings.blogspot.com/2012/07/playing-judge-jury-executioner-and-god.html
ray
antoine, the soldiers were granted bail till the actual hearing/trial takes place. That is why your comparison with shooting a dog (in which the accused pleaded guilty) does not make any sense. But do not let this hold you from applying asylum in another country.
Twani Cassar
A small correction: the EUR 9,000 is not a fine but a bail deposit. Still, the absurdity remains. The attackers/alleged killers of Suleiman, Sunshine and Zoto are free to walk in the streets. I do not feel safe.
Twani Cassar
A small correction: the EUR 9,000 is not a fine but a bail deposit. Still, the absurdity remains. The attackers/alleged killers of Suleiman, Sunshine and Zoto are free to walk in the streets. I do not feel safe.
Twani Cassar
A small correction: the EUR 9,000 is not a fine but a bail deposit. Still, the absurdity remains. The attackers/alleged killers of Suleiman, Sunshine and Zoto are free to walk in the streets. I do not feel safe.
Twani Cassar
Maltese justice for dummies: Shoot a pet dog - receive a fine for EUR 10,000, and a three-month jail sentence Beat a human being to death - receive a fine for EUR 9,000, and be granted bail With courts like these - too shy to declare soldiers, policemen, licensed and unlicensed bouncers guilty of murder and thus setting them free -, I would not feel any safer on the streets of Malta. I am almost tempted to apply for asylum in another country.
Twani Cassar
Maltese justice for dummies: Shoot a pet dog - receive a fine for EUR 10,000, and a three-month jail sentence Beat a human being to death - receive a fine for EUR 9,000, and be granted bail With courts like these - too shy to declare soldiers, policemen, licensed and unlicensed bouncers guilty of murder and thus setting them free -, I would not feel any safer on the streets of Malta. I am almost tempted to apply for asylum in another country.
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