Syrian family and Maltese landlord arraigned over Tarxien fracas

A police sergeant was slightly injured and a constable had his glasses broken whilst attempting to break up the fracas between a man, his wife and son, and their landlord

Four people - one Maltese man and a Syrian family of three - have appeared in court this morning in connection with a fight at their rented property in Tarxien on Tuesday afternoon.

Inspector Christabelle Chetcuti told Magistrate Francesco Depasquale that the altercation had taken place when the landlord, 41-year-old Demis Darmanin from Cospicua, had called on the Tlas family who were renting a property from him in Tarxien, to collect overdue rent

A police sergeant was slightly injured and a constable had his glasses broken whilst attempting to break up the fracas.

The Tlas family - Husein, 47, his wife Najoud Mohamed, 40, and their 19-year old son Mohamad - were charged with assaulting and threatening police officers, slightly injuring one. They were also accused of disobeying the police's legitimate orders and breaching the peace.

Husein and Mohamad Tlas alone were also charged with threatening Darmanin with a weapon, attacking and slightly injuring him. The elder man was further charged with damaging a pair of sunglasses belonging to one officer.

Darmanin was charged with causing slight injury to Husein Tlas and causing him and his wife to fear for their safety. He is also charged with attacking the Tlas family, threatening them, causing them to fear for their safety and breaching the peace. Darmanin's lawyer, Roberto Montalto entered a plea of not guilty. The landlord was granted bail against a personal guarantee of €500 and ordered to observe a curfew.

Lawyer George Buttigieg, who is appearing for the male defendants, told the court that the landlord's son had knocked on the Tlas' door before pushing Najoud Mohamed Tlas, who opened the door, over. His client had simply reacted, he said .

“Now that the court has granted bail to Darmanin, who is the aggressor, I understand that my clients are also entitled to bail. When the police arrived and entered the flat, Demis Darmanin was not content to wait outside; he stayed in the doorway looking inside and my clients reacted because the same thing was going to happen - he would enter their house. In separating the fighting parties, the police, instead of arresting everyone they had arrested to his son."

His client had a condition that made it hard to breathe and had reacted violently because he was “under duress and suffering, not because he had anything against the police,” the lawyer explained. The men pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi, appearing on behalf of Najoud Mohamed, told the court that the fight had broken out after a sitting in a separate, and ongoing court case for the family's eviction. Darmanin was claiming that they were squatters but had “forgotten” that they have been paying him rent for the past five years, the lawyer added.

Azzopardi also entered a plea of not guilty for his client and requested bail. He explained that the woman had four other underage sons to take care of and said a third party guarantor had come forward to provide security.

Inspector Chetcuti objected to bail, pointing out that the parties all lived under the same roof. There was a risk that this could lead to the contamination of evidence. This was not the first time these people were charged, the inspector said. A previous criminal case against Hussein Tlass had been time-barred as he had proved impossible to trace and summon.

After taking into account the interests of the woman’s four other children, the magistrate granted the mother bail against a deposit of €500 and a personal guarantee of €5,000, ordering her to sign a bail book twice a week and observe a curfew. She was ordered not to approach Darmanin or his family members.

The court however, denied bail to the two men, noting that they were accused of a serious attack on a public official who was safeguarding the public.