Police sergeant testifies to "complete obedience" of Birdlife activist arrested in Chris Packham incident

Man charged with trespassing “obeyed” police’s orders, court hears

Video still from 'Massacre on Migration', with a hunter, left, telling Chris Packham, right, and Nimrod Mifsud to stop filming the Mizieb environs.
Video still from 'Massacre on Migration', with a hunter, left, telling Chris Packham, right, and Nimrod Mifsud to stop filming the Mizieb environs.

A court has heard a police sergeant describe the behaviour of a BirdLife activist, upon his arrest for trespassing, as one of complete obedience.

“I was trying to protect everyone there. I told Nimrod to move and he obeyed completely,” Sergeant Christian Xuereb told magistrate Charmaine Galea this morning, as he testified in proceedings against BirdLife Activist Nimrod Mifsud.

Mifsud is charged with trespassing and exercising a pretended right after a 2014 incident at Mizieb in an area that hunters claim to be reserved to them. In previous sittings, FKNK’s chief executive Lino Farrugia had told the court that a 1986 agreement with the government had rendered Mifsud a trespasser.

Mifsud had been accompanying BBC presenter Chris Packham, who was attempting to interview hunters while filming a documentary. However, neither Packham nor his British crew had been charged in connection with the incident.

This morning, Police Sergeant Christian Xuereb testified that he had been on extra duty that day, detailed with keeping the peace in the area during the hunting season. Upon his arrival, there had been a commotion, he said. He went in between them and told Mr Mifsud to step back, and Mifsud had “complied completely.”

Asked by lawyer Kathleen Grima, who is representing the hunters' federation (FKNK) as parte civile in these proceedings, whether he remembered finding Mifsud doing anything in particular when he arrived, the officer said that there had been a commotion and it was impossible to tell what every individual person was doing.

The Magistrate asked the witness why he “had been given a duty by he FKNK.”, Grima re-worded the question and asked who had given him orders. The officer replied that he had been instructed to go there by the Commissioner of Police. The officers were there to maintiain order, he said.

In a previous sitting, Lino Farrugia, the chief executive officer of the FKNK had told the court that following an agreement signed by former Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici on 11 April, 1986,the land had been reserved exclusively for use by hunters during the open season.

Through this agreement, the public land in question was placed under the “administration” of the FKNK and forbade access to the nature reserve by unauthorised persons. Farrugia had said that the agreement had been confirmed in October 1989 through the endorsement given by the deputy Prime Minister of the time, Guido de Marco.

Birdlife had written to the Government Property Division in February 2011 complaining that the land in question was public land and should be accessible to everyone, but the GPD had replied quoting the 1986 agreement, saying the are had been designated as a hunting reserve by the government and access was restricted to individuals conducting hunting activities.

The case will continue in September.

Dr Kathleen Grima appearing for the FKNK, Dr Stephen Tonna Lowell for Mr Mifsud. Magistrate Charmaine Galea presiding.