Rabat abduction: Two accused found in contempt after late arrival

Two of the men charged in connection with the Rabat kidnapping of Carlos Schembri have been declared in contempt of court after they failed to arrive in time 

Two of the men charged in connection with the Rabat kidnapping of Carlos Schembri have been declared in contempt of court after they failed to arrive in time as the compilation of evidence against them continued today.

Magistrate Monica Vella had initially also ordered the re-arrest of the men, Tyson Grech and Jeremy Borg, but later rescinded this order, when the men finally arrived in court, some 40 minutes late. Grech was not wearing a tie, observed the magistrate.

Lawyer Jason Grima explained to the court that the men had been stuck in traffic in Marsa. The court revoked the arrest warrant but said the fine still stood. “Their problem,” said the magistrate.

A doctor from the Rabat health centre testified to having examined Carlos Schembri on 21 January and documenting his injuries.

Schembri had been certified as having suffered a bruise on his left temple, a chipped tooth, bruising and scratches to his back and hip, lips and ears and wrist, as well as grab marks on his left arm. The examination took around 10 minutes, said the doctor. 

A CT scan was also carried out and no internal damage was detected, he said.

Asked by the prosecution as to what had been established as the cause of the injuries, he replied he said: “the bruises appeared to be blunt trauma injuries, blows.” The bruises were fresh and had been concentrated on the man’s left side. They were approximately 6cm in diameter, added the witness.

Schembri had told the doctor that he had been involved in a fight, but gave no further details, he said.

Lawyer Giannela De Marco, for Christian Borg, cross-examined the witness, who confirmed that the injuries were classified as slight. He had not seen the man before, he said.

A police officer from the Rabat police station took the stand next. The officer had been the station orderly at the time that Carlos Schembri went to the police station to report that he had been kidnapped and escaped, he testified. The officer said he had also spoken to Schembri’s mother, who had accompanied Schembri to the police station. “He showed me some bruises on the side of his face and redness on his back.”

“His behaviour was normal. He wasn’t agitated. I saw him as a person who was not over-excited and confused,” said the officer.

Cross-examined by De Marco, the policeman was asked whether Schembri had been involved in a fight the week before. “No, he did not mention anything,” replied the officer. Neither had Schembri mentioned anything about car thefts, he said in reply to another question.

The testimony was interrupted by bickering amongst the lawyers about the questions being asked by lawyer Karl Muscat, appearing on behalf of the Attorney General. Muscat asked whether the injuries had been caused by the accused. Lawyer Franco Debono protested that Muscat had made a series of hypothetical and direct questions. The magistrate ordered the prosecutor to reform his question.

Lawyer Stefano Filletti also intervened, pointing out that the criminal code stipulated that a non-expert witness can only testify about what he perceived with his five senses. “What my colleague is doing is asking to tie injuries to actions,” submitted the lawyer. 

The Magistrate was incensed by the constant interruptions, observing that every witness was being “put through a jury” and that this was dragging the sittings out unnecessarily. Reminding the lawyers that this was not the only case that the court had to hear today, the magistrate threatened to postpone the sitting till 3pm in the afternoon “so that you can ask the witnesses all the questions you like.” 

The court reformulated the AG’s question, asking the witness what injuries he had seen on Schembri’s person. 

Lawyer Shaun Zammit, appearing parte civile for Schembri, asked the police officer whether he had asked the injured man who had hurt him. He had, the witness replied, naming the accused as his aggressors.

As the sitting drew to a close, Filetti informed the court that his client would not be contesting prima facie. The court, therefore, decreed that there was sufficient prima facie evidence to place Milton under indictment.

The case will continue in April.