Valletta café owner cleared of rape charges

Owner of Valletta cafe cleared of the repeated rape of a female employee, after court observes the alleged victim had sought him out and asked him to marry her

Court (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Court (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

The owner of a Valletta cafe has been cleared of the repeated rape of a female employee, after a court observed that the alleged victim had sought him out and asked him to marry her.

The 43-year-old Libyan defendant, who is not being named at the order of the court, was found not guilty of rape, holding the 21-year-old woman against her will and slightly injuring her. He had denied the charges, confirming that he had sexual encounters with the woman at his residence but insisting that they had always been consensual.

The case related to encounters which occurred in 2018, when the woman had been 21 years old. Magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace, presiding the Court of Magistrates, was told that the woman had filed a report at the Valletta police station claiming the defendant had sex with her without her consent on four different occasions.

She had told the police that she used to work with him in his cafe in Valletta, alleging that she had been detained against her will at his residence, where she was allegedly raped and slightly injured.

The first encounter had happened just a week after she started working for the defendant, she said, recounting how he had asked her to go up to his house to help him with an email, but had thrown her on to his bed and taken off her clothes, before sexually assaulting her.

He had subsequently apologised to her, she said, adding that she had forgiven him. The next day she went to work and didn't talk about what happened.

A week later he once again asked her to go home with him to help him write an email. On that occasion, he had raped her she said, adding that she had gone to work the next day and he had “showed her that he was sorry.” Two more similar encounters ensued. She said that the last time she had visited his apartment, he had told her to sit next to him but she had picked up her bag and left.

The woman alleged that they had subsequently agreed to meet in order for him to pay her, but when she visited him, he had tried to rape her. In spite of this, she had accepted €100 offered to her by the defendant and had decided to discuss the fact that he had used her and caused her distress, before leaving.

She had later opened up to her boyfriend and filed a police report, but also confirmed to the court that she would occasionally visit the cafe with her boyfriend where they would drink wine.

On the witness stand, the woman also confirmed sending a message to the defendant saying that she loved him.

For his part, the defendant testified that the relationship was consensual and had been initiated by the woman. He said that when she was about to be found out by the boyfriend the boyfriend she had been cheating on, she had accused him of rape.

In her decision to acquit the defendant, Magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace, observed that after sifting through the testimony, the court noticed the woman had voluntarily gone to meet the defendant several times after the initial encounter, even if for the sake of the argument, she had been shocked the first time.

Besides several inconsistencies in the woman’s account of events, the court noted that chats between the two indicated that there was a friendship that went beyond the expected employer - employee relationship. The woman appeared to have been infatuated with the defendant, said the court, noting that she had once told him to divorce his wife and marry her, said the magistrate.

The man was declared not guilty and released.

Lawyer Stefano Filletti appeared for the defendant.