Courtroom showdown between Metsola and man who said she should be burned alive

The sitting ended in disarray after Navarro’s daughter collapsed and had to be carried out of the courtroom

Roberta Metsola
Roberta Metsola

MEP Roberta Metsola has told a court of her shock and concern after a man published a Facebook post saying she should be burned alive.

Emmanuel Navarro, 66, of Naxxar, is accused of inciting hatred on political grounds, misuse of electronic communications equipment, insulting and threatening Metsola in writing, in breach of both the criminal code and the press act.

The pensioner found himself in the national spotlight after a number of PN MPs posted screenshots of his Facebook comment, in which he called MEP Roberta Metsola a "traitor" who should be burned alive.

PN MEPs had previously come under fire for their criticism of the Labour government in a rule of law debate held at the European Parliament after the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Metsola today told magistrate Grazio Mercieca how she had gone to the police after being contacted by a number of concerned friends and family members about the comment, which she had reposted on social media.

The MEP said she had been sent a copy of the message “I started receiving a lot of messages of shock from people who had seen it. I felt I had no choice but to report it to the police.” She filed a criminal complaint the next morning.

“Mr Navarro decided that because I was doing my job in the European Parliament, as elected by the Maltese people, that I am a traitor. Specifically that I should be burned alive ‘because I am horse dung,’” she said, bristling.

“I was shocked because I believe that in our country where we should respect each other, someone doing their job in the European Parliament, who stands up and speaks about the rule of law...I don’t think that someone should be threatened in this way.”

Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Karol Aquilina appeared parte civile for the MEP. Azzopardi asked Metsola whether she felt threatened. “I am a mother of 4 children and I feel that [the Facebook post] put them in danger.” It could have led someone to take action as it was directed specifically towards her, she said.

“If someone writes about a politician in 2017, saying that a person, who spoke as she was duty bound to do, should be burnt alive, this dangerous behaviour could lead someone to take action on that comment.” She had no previous interaction with the accused, she said in reply to a question by her lawyer.

Inspector Timothy Zammit from the police cybercrime unit also testified.

He had been informed by the Commissioner of Police of news articles about the comments and had emailed Metsola. MaltaToday had uploaded a story and Navarro had commented in response to the MaltaToday story, he said.

The police had sent a request for information about the poster to Facebook that same day but no reply had been received to date. This normally takes at least 2 weeks, he said.

Defence lawyer Franco Debono, appearing together with Legal Procurator Peter Paul Zammit, told the court that their client wished to apologise at this stage for what he had written and was retracting his words. “Without prejudice to guilt or otherwise.”

The sitting ended in disarray after Navarro’s daughter collapsed and had to be carried out of the courtroom, but the court succeeded in renewing the protection order in favour of the MEP and granted the man bail against a deposit of €500 and a personal guarantee of €2000.

The case continues in December.