Polonium plot: Magistrate rejects request to halt case in view of Constitutional ruling

Calleja Maatouk tried to buy C4 as well as Polonium 210, ricin and the synthetic opioid Fentanyl, on the dark web

The compilation of evidence against Jomic Calleja Maatouk, a 36 year-old Żebbug resident accused of plotting to purchase poison and explosives is to continue without awaiting the outcome of a Constitutional case he had filed, a court has ruled.

Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech gave the order in a decree this morning, after Caaleja Maatouk’s lawyer had requested the compilation of evidence be suspended pending the outcome of the Constitutional case.

Calleja Maatouk had been arrested in March 2020 after the local authorities had been alerted by foreign intelligence services to the fact that unknown persons from Malta were attempting to buy C4 as well as Polonium 210, ricin and the synthetic opioid Fentanyl, on the dark web. Investigators had intercepted internet communications between a person selling the C4 and a potential buyer.

The package - an empty guitar amplifier inside which a stick of C4 had been concealed - had luckily been intercepted by US authorities. After the substance was confirmed as viable C4 explosive, it was removed, in the presence of Maltese law enforcement officials and replaced with dummy explosives, before the package continued on its way to Malta for a controlled delivery.

Calleja Maatouk had subsequently been arrested and was arraigned in court on March 10, 2020, charged with offences under the Criminal Code and the Explosives Ordinance, as well as with breaching previous bail conditions and recidivism.

Last May, defence lawyer Benjamin Valenzia had filed a Constitutional case against the Commissioner of Police, the State Advocate and the Attorney General, claiming that he had not been given full disclosure of the evidence against his client, as the police had refused to grant him access to the intelligence which had led to the man’s arrest.

Amongst the remedies for the inequality of arms alleged by the defendant, he had asked the court for an interim measure, which would suspend the criminal proceedings against him until the Constitutional complaint had been addressed. 

The Constitutional case is being heard by Mr. Justice Ian Spiteri Bailey, who in a partial judgement issued last Wednesday rejected the request for an interim measure, observing that European Human Rights jurisprudence had established that such requests were to be issued only when necessary for the prevention of irreparable harm, and that in practice, interim measures were only applied in a limited number of areas - most of which concern expulsion and extradition. 

When the criminal proceedings against Calleja Maatouk continued this morning before Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech, defence lawyer Benjamin Valenzia asked the court to suspend the proceedings, in view of the fact that the Constitutional case related to this case had not yet been decided on the merits. “If that case were to be upheld, it would have consequences on the fair hearing of this case and the witnesses which the defendant would be able to summon.”

Valenzia asked for a stay of proceedings until a final decision was handed down in the Constitutional case - something unlikely to happen for months, if not years. 

The prosecution did not make any submissions on this request.

Magistrate Frendo Dimech announced that she was taking judicial notice of the decision by the First Hall of the Civil Court, presided by Mr. Justice Ian Spiteri Bailey, in which the request for an interim measure had been denied. It also noted that the criminal proceedings had already been stalled for a considerable period of time.

The request for a stay of proceedings was denied. The court ordered the case to continue in November.