Updated | Hunters involved in Valletta protest released on bail

Ten hunters allegedly involved in anti-hunting protest granted bail after spending ten nights in jail

Nine hunters were today granted bail, after being held under arrest for ten days, after they had pleaded not guilty to being involved in an illegal pro-hunting protest in Valletta.

The hunters, whose age ranges between 19 and 44, were charged with forming part of an illegal protest during which they showed disrespect to the government, with conspiring with others to commit a crime to break the law, and with insulting the Prime Minister and the government of Malta.

During their arraignment, Magistrate Marseann Farrugia had turned down their request for bail “due to fear of tampering of evidence,” while on Thursday, Magistrate Anthony Vella – who is hearing the hunters’ compilation of evidence – postponed his ruling until today.

In his ruling, Magistrate Vella granted the nine men bail against a deposit of €1,000 and a personal guarantee of €3,000. The men were also ordered to sign a bail sheet at their respective police stations.

The nine men are Arnold Farrugia, 21, of Dingli, Brian Grech, 21, of Rabat, David Spagnol, 44, of Marsascala, Gabriel Farrugia, 19, of Mosta, Krist Callus, 23, of Zurrieq; Alan Mizzi, 22, of Zebbug (Gozo); Simon Camilleri, 26, of Zabbar; Oliver Borg, 42, of Marsascala; and Josmar Buhagiar, 28, of Zabbar.

Arnold Farrugia, Brian Grech and Alan Mizzi were charged with hurling stones, making obscene gestures, with disturbing the public peace and with disobeying police orders.

Farrugia and Mizzi were also charged with the illegal possession of an imitation shotgun while committing a crime that threatened security, while Krist Callus and David Spagnol were also charged with assaulting three journalists.

The hunters are all alleged to have participated in an illegal protest at City Gate, in front of Castille and the Labour Party Club in Republic Street. The protest was held in the wake of the government’s decision to curtail the autumn hunting season – a decision which the hunting lobby has described as being “a collective punishment.”

The hunters who participated in the protest were also heard shouting insults at the government and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and hurled stones and empty beer cans at the Labour Party club. Some time later, a group of 30 hunters attacked 13 BirdLife birdwatchers.

Lawyers Michael and Lucio Scriha and Franco Debono were defence counsel.

Christian Aquilina, 27, of Birkirkara, the tenth person charged in connection with the illegal protest held in Valletta on Independence Day, was also granted bail in a separate sitting before Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, against a deposit of €500 and a personal guarantee of €2,000.

Aquilina had allegedly not participated in the demonstation but was described by the prosecution as being the brains behind it, organising the event on Facebook.