Beppe Fenech Adami on anonymous threats: 'It felt like I was being followed'

An elderly man charged with sending threatening anonymous letters to several government critics over a number of years is released on bail after victims testify

Nationalist MP Beppe Fenech Adami
Nationalist MP Beppe Fenech Adami

A 71-year-old man from Valletta who was charged late last month with sending threatening letters to public figures was released on bail on Monday after a court heard more victims testify in the criminal proceedings against him.

Joseph Mary Borg had been arraigned on 30 November, accused of sending poison-pen letters to the private residences of Opposition MPs Beppe Fenech Adami, Jason Azzopardi and Ryan Callus, Repubblika president Robert Aquilina, as well as a newspaper columnist and government critic Prof. Kevin Cassar.

Magistrate Astrid May Grima heard Professor Kevin Cassar, MPs Beppe Fenech Adami, and Ryan Callus testify against the accused this morning.

Borg is pleading not guilty to 26 charges concerning the sending of insults and threats to the public figures.

PN MP Beppe Fenech Adami told the court that he received two letters, one on 5 May 2016 and one on 4 March 2017, adding that he had also separately received five photocopied pages from the Labour Party’s political manifesto Malta Tagħna Lkoll full of scribbled insults. The letters were received at his family home, he said.

Fenech Adami said that having been in politics all his life, he was used to such insults and explained that he had not reported the letters to the police but had been approached by the prosecuting inspector about the case.

Regarding the letters’ contents, Fenech Adami said he felt as though the person writing them was following him, as the letters’ author showed that he knew his whereabouts.

In one letter, the writer had referred to a time when Fenech Adami had fallen ill, also naming the victim’s wife.

“Only hatred comes out of your mouth,” the anonymous sender had written, together with a plethora of other insults. That particular letter was signed as “Ganni ta’ Filippa”, Fenech Adami noted.

“You’re as fit for leader as that liar of your father,” Fenech Adami read out from the second letter.

“You’re so shameless that even in the church, you’re on your phone ignoring the service,” one letter read. Fenech Adami explained that given that he had attended Mass at a church in Valletta, it gave him the impression that he was being followed.

A3 photocopies of the Labour Party’s manifesto contained more insults which Fenech Adami read out in court.

“This is nothing new,” Fenech Adami told the court when asked how he felt about the letters. “I’ve seen it all; at 12 years old, we were jumping roofs, running away from those who ransacked and looted our house. However, I do not recall a time such as this when people feel they could insult people in public life so freely. You’d be waiting in line to withdraw money at a bank, and someone comes out from nowhere and starts insulting you.” Fenech Adami added that he was concerned about “lone wolf” attacks.

He went on to say that in recent months a person has been going to his family home at strange hours to scratch his children’s cars. He clarified that he was not implying that it was the accused, but added that this has to be taken into context together with some phrases such as that “you will get what you deserve” used in the letters as well as the fact that the letters were anonymous.

At the time that Fenech Adami received the letters, he had been the deputy leader of the Nationalist Party. He had discussed the letters with his colleagues, he said

During cross-examination, the witness said that given the calligraphy and the narrative used, they had concluded it was the same person. He added he did not know the accused.

Opposition MP Ryan Callus also took the stand on Monday, telling the court that he had received a letter on 28 April 2020 just before the start of a scheduled parliamentary session. The letter was sent within days of a press conference on utility bills. He added that he mentioned the letter in his adjournment speech.

Asked about the contents of the letter, Callus said it was a political attack that was not only full of criticism but which threatened him while carrying out his duties.

It also showed that the sender was aware of what he did in his private life.

“It’s useless that you volunteer on missions abroad if all you do is lie,” Callus recalled. He received three other letters, which he said he had not reported.

The MP said he felt threatened. “It was an attack on my family and work,” he said.

The witness said he did not know the accused.

Borg was granted bail after the defence made a request to this effect. The prosecution did not object as long as suitable conditions were imposed.

Medical Consultant Kevin Cassar testified to having received a letter full of abuse at Mater Dei Hospital in July, receiving a second in August.

The third letter had been received at his home and was addressed to his wife. He noticed the calligraphy was the same in all the letters.

The content of the letter was that someone wanted to stop him from writing in local newspapers, he said, adding that it was the same as that issued by the Labour news media.

He was so distressed by the letters that he started opening the letters in the presence of a nurse or secretary. He hadn’t spoken to his wife about the letters and had gone straight to the police, he said.

The court granted him bail against a deposit of €2,000 and a personal guarantee of €10,000. He was ordered to sign the bail book twice a week. A protection order was issued in favour of the victims. He was ordered not to approach them or the families or any witnesses of the prosecution.

Magistrate Astrid May Grima presided. Lawyers Henry Antonich and Joseph Calleja appeared for the accused.