Man acquitted over Kirkop car park assault that smashed man's eye socket

Victim says that before the assault he received threats from the accused, telling him to keep away from his girlfriend

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

A court has acquitted a Syrian man of assaulting and grievously injuring his ex-girlfriend’s new partner, who suffered fractures to his eye socket, after being set upon by three men in Kirkop.

32-year-old Muashi Hazem had been arraigned and charged with having assaulted and caused grievous injury to a Tunisian man in 2017.

The victim had testified over several sittings, telling the court, presided by Magistrate Simone Grech, how before being assaulted, he had received threats from Hazem on Facebook, telling him to keep away from Hazem’s ex-girlfriend, whom he was dating at the time.

On one occasion, he said, he had been leaving a fast food restaurant in a car, together with the woman near the airport, when the accused had arrived in his car, accompanied by two other men, later identified by the woman as “Faris and Alejan.”

Thinking that Hazem wanted to speak to him, the victim had emerged from his vehicle, at which point the accused began hurling abuse at him and the woman. Suddenly, he said, the three men attacked him all together, punching him on his nose, mouth and eye. He insisted the accused had hit him in the face with an unidentified implement, causing the base of his left eye socket to fracture, necessitating surgery.

Under cross-examination by Hazem’s lawyer Arthur Azzopardi, the man explained the fight had been broken up with the arrival of two soldiers who separated the parties. He denied the soldiers had held him back from attacking the accused.

He added his girlfriend had warned him not to get out of the car as a fight was going to break out. It was the second time the victim had met Hazem, he said, explaining the first encounter had not been problematic.

In another sitting, he had confirmed receiving insulting messages from the accused. The messages had been written in Arabic and warned him that he was “playing with fire and that fire would burn him.”

The woman over whom the men had fought, also testified, giving the court a similar account to that of the victim. She confirmed the accused and her boyfriend had previously feuded on Facebook. Cross-examined by the defence, she denied insulting the accused before the fight started, insisting she had only done so after the arrival of the soldiers.

The men who had been in the accused’s car also testified, telling the court the victim had approached the car and punched Hazem first.

The AFM Staff Sergeant who, together with a fellow soldier, had broken up the fight confirmed under oath that three men had been punching the victim “all over”, adding that only fists had been used to deliver the blows. The assailants had “vanished” when he told them he was calling the police, he said.

The accused had also testified, explaining he had been in a relationship with the woman up till the month before the incident. He had come back to Malta after spending a month in Libya with his family, to rumours that she was seeing someone else. They had ended their relationship, he said, alleging that she had taken offence at this and, after threatening him, had filed a false police report against him, alleging harassment.

As he was leaving  the police station following that report, he had encountered the Tunisian victim with two Libyan men. The Tunisian had apologised for dating his girlfriend and saying that he hadn’t been aware that she was in a relationship. Hazem said he had replied to the effect that their relationship had since ended.

Two weeks later, Hazem and his two friends had gone to watch aeroplanes taking off and landing at the airport. It was around 10pm, he said. The car with the woman and her new partner was already parked there, but he hadn’t recognised them at first. When he did, he had moved to a parking spot further away, he said.

The Tunisian man had strode towards his car, the accused said, claiming that he didn’t realise the man wanted to fight him. An unpleasant exchange of words ensued, during which the woman got out of the car and started to insult the accused and his family.

It had been the alleged victim who had assaulted him first, he explained, denying having used any weapons. He denied punching the man or that the man ever fell to the ground. All that happened, he said, was that the two men came to blows and that he blocked all of the victim’s. He denied causing any injuries to the man.

His friends had been trying to separate the men when the soldiers arrived, he claimed. 

Hazem told the court that he never saw the Tunisian man again, but whenever the woman would see him with a new partner, she would go file a new police report. The couple had caused him great harm, he added.

The court said it was faced with two conflicting accounts. The defendant was claiming to have acted in self-defence, noted the court, examining the relevant jurisprudence.

The magistrate said the evidence did not support the claim that the accused had acted in self defence, as although he had moved his car, he had then walked towards the alleged victim. It was not clear who delivered the first blow, said the court, but noted that the accused could have easily driven away and avoided the fight. 

On the charge of causing grievous injury to the victim’s eye socket, however, the court said it had emerged from the evidence that there were two other people allegedly punching the other man. It was noted that the victim had been inconsistent in his testimony as to who had punched him in the eye, at times saying he had not seen it coming, at others saying it had come from in front and on one occasion, testifying that he didn’t even know how he had ended up on the ground.

After also examining the witness evidence from third parties, the court concluded that, while several men had clearly been involved in the fight, the Prosecution had not proven beyond reasonable doubt it had been the accused who had inflicted the bone-breaking blow.

For this reason, the court acquitted Muashi Hazem from all charges.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi appeared for Hazem.