Criminal Court grants bail to man accused of attempted murder in July

Ans Ghodban stands charged, together with Adnan Saed, with trying to kill convicted drug trafficker Michele Artale and another man, allegedly during negotiations over a cocaine deal

A Hungarian man who had been in custody since July, when he was accused of attempted murder in connection with the near-fatal stabbing of two men in Marsaskala, has been granted bail by the Criminal Court.

Ans Ghodban, a 27-year-old Hungarian citizen, had been arrested together with a 30-year-old Libyan, Adnan Saed, five months ago. 

The stabbing is understood to have followed an argument that broke out while the men were negotiating the sale of half a kilogramme of cocaine. One of the wounded men was 52-year-old convicted drug trafficker Michele Artale, a Żurrieq resident whose name is synonymous with drug trafficking in Malta. 

Most serious of the charges which the men stand accused of are the attempted murder and grievous wounding of one man and the grievous bodily harm of another victim. Ghodban alone is further accused of disobeying lawful police orders, giving the police false particulars and recidivism.

He had been taken into custody after officers found him hiding in a shaft in a San Ġwann apartment complex, in an attempt to evade the police.

In a decree handed down yesterday, Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera, presiding over the Criminal Court, upheld a bail request filed by Ghodban’s lawyer, Ishmael Psaila and ordered that he be temporarily released from arrest on a number of conditions, secured by a €10,000 deposit and a €20,000 personal guarantee.

The judge praised the pace of the work done by the Court of Magistrates in the compilation of evidence, noting that in the months since the arrests, the civilian witnesses appear to have all testified. The remaining witnesses were police officers, court experts and doctors, observed the court.

The Attorney General, represented by prosecutor Kayleigh Bonnett, had previously objected to Ghodban’s release, stressing that his extensive criminal record and the serious nature of the charges he faced did not bode well insofar as the prospect of him not committing further crimes or attempting to tamper with evidence if granted bail was concerned.

But the judge ruled that, while a criminal record was an indicator of a higher likelihood of further offences, that fact alone did not mean that the applicant should not be granted bail, because otherwise the legislator would have excluded persons with criminal records from eligibility for release from preventive custody.

“However, the legislator did not [do this], “ the court pointed out, “but provided safeguards… which the person judging must take into consideration in their totality, while bearing in mind that arrest is the exception and not the rule, in following the principle that an individual’s liberty prevails due to the presumption of innocence.”

The prosecutor’s argument that Ghodban would not abide by any bail conditions imposed should he be released had been made “in a vacuum, not substantiated by legal arguments,” said the judge, contrasting it with the testimony of his Maltese live-in girlfriend - who said they had been friends for ten years and in a relationship for two - and two Maltese brothers who told the court that Ghodban could stay at their elderly mother’s Sliema flat, as she was now living in a residential care home. 

Lawyer Ishmael Psaila is representing Ghodban, while lawyer Charles Mercieca is assisting Adnan.

Lawyers Jacob Magri and Arthur Azzopardi are representing the parte civile.

Inspectors Wayne Camilleri and Kurt Farrugia prosecuted, assisted by lawyers Kaylie Bonett from the Office of the Attorney General.