Man charged with stabbing roommate, alleges lapse of self-control due to fasting

Man accused of stabbing his friend in the shoulder claims his Ramadan fast had caused a momentary lapse of self-control 

A Moroccan man has been accused of stabbing a fellow countryman in the shoulder, in what he alleged was a lapse of self-control, brought on by observing the Ramadan fast all day.

Inspector John Sammut, together with prosecutors Etienne Savona and Manuel Grech from the Office of the Attorney General, arraigned 50-year-old Abdelaziz Lakehal from Morocco in front of Magistrate Kevan Azzopardi on Thursday, accusing him of using a knife to inflict grievous bodily harm on the victim.

The prosecution also requested that the court issue a protection order in favour of the victim and his family, as well as the confiscation of the knife allegedly used in the attack.

Inspector Sammut told the magistrate that the victim went to the police station on April 4, accompanied by his sister. He was bleeding profusely, and so was rushed to hospital in an ambulance.

The injured man was initially unable to speak, but released a statement to the police on Wednesday, confirming that the defendant had stabbed him in the shoulder.

He told the police that the incident took place at around 7pm on the last day of Ramadan, a month-long period during which Muslims observe a strict fast, abstaining from food, drink and sex from sunrise to sunset. The defendant had lost control of his emotions because he had been fasting all day, the victim said.

Before the stabbing, Lakehal had been smashing plates and other kitchen items and the victim had asked him to stop. Shortly afterwards, he said, he felt something sting his left shoulder and turned his head to see blood pouring out and the defendant holding a bloodstained knife.

In his statement to the police, he said Lakehal immediately apologised and said that he did not intend on stabbing him. The inspector said that the victim’s account confirmed what his sister had already told the police.

As the police did not have the defendant’s home address on their database, they decided to arrest him at his workplace. But on April 9, while the inspector was preparing to apply for an arrest warrant, he received a phone call from the police station informing him that the man had just turned himself in.

Lakehal, who said his job was assisting in the delivery of goods, initially gave the court a different address to those specified in the charges. When challenged on this, he explained that he did not know the full address, but that it was in Marsa.

He pleaded not guilty to the charge, after which the defence counsel, lawyer Nicholas Mifsud and legal procurator Colin Galea, requested that he be released on bail.

At this point, the victim’s lawyer, Noel Bianco, declared to the court that his client, who was also present in the courtroom, wished to forgive his assailant. In spite of this, the offence of grievous bodily harm can still stand, independently of the victim’s forgiveness or otherwise.

The magistrate asked for the defendant’s ID card, noting that it was expired and which specified a different address. He called the alleged victim to the stand and asked him to declare his address on oath. “Żebbug,” was all he could recall.

“Does anyone live with you at home?” asked the court.

“The others left,” said the victim..

“Do you know where this man lives?” asked the court, pointing to the defendant.

“No,” replied the victim.

The defence explained that the man might be confused about his address as he left the property after the stabbing.

The court asked the man for how long he had been sharing his accommodation with the defendant and a third party. “Around a year,” replied the man.

The prosecution registered their objection to the bail request, arguing that there might be civilian witnesses who are yet to testify and that the defendant only returned to Malta for about a month after a long absence.

Galea, for the defence, submitted that while the defendant was not in Malta recently, he had resided here for several years before that, and held a Maltese ID card which expired in 2021. An alternative address was available, so that he would not live with the alleged victim if granted bail, Galea said.

He also stated that within 30 minutes of finding out that the police wanted to speak to him, the defendant went to the police station voluntarily.

Mifsud added that there were no eyewitnesses to the incident, pointing to the fact that the prosecution had previously confirmed this.

Another relative of the defendant, present in the courtroom, offered to step in as a third party guarantor.

The court upheld the request for bail, after taking into account the fact that the alleged victim already declared on oath that he forgave the defendant and that the prosecution corrected its earlier statement and declared that there were no further civilian witnesses besides the alleged victim.

Lakehal was released from arrest against a €2,000 deposit and a €13,000 third party guarantee. He was ordered to sign a bail book three times a week and was prohibited from approaching or contacting the victim, in terms of a protection order issued to this effect.