Three charged with inciting hatred against police on Facebook posts

The trio comented on a news article about PC Simon Schembri, who was left fighting for his life after an underage motorist ran him over on purpose 

A court has remanded in custody two men and a woman who expressed satisfaction on Facebook at the running over of a policeman.

The trio were commenting on news articles about PC Simon Schembri who was left fighting for his life and had a limb amputated after a young motorist ran him over on purpose last Tuesday.

Inspector Joseph Busuttil and John Spiteri charged the three with publicly inciting persons to commit a crime and misuse of electronic communications equipment.

Kylie Cutajar, 21, from St. Venera, Ritmark Borg, 28, from Paola and  Josef D’Amato, 24 from Marsa pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The three commented on news articles related to the incident.
The three commented on news articles related to the incident.

Busuttil objected to bail due to fear of tampering with evidence. Facebook can be accessed from anywhere and the messages can be deleted, he said.

Inspector John Spiteri said the accused had not cooperated with the investigation. “When we reach the point where in a society the police are spoken of in such a way it isn’t ideal. We have people who hide behind a screen to incite others.”

Lawyer Mark Refalo, appearing for Cutajar and Borg, argued that the comment was intended to ridicule, not incite violence.  “The speech is completely generic.” The words were not said in a context that could be interpreted as incitement, he said, submitting that the media had also reported it as such.

The police have to prove that she wrote the comment herself and that it was incitement not ridicule, explained the lawyer.

The court said it was making it clear that cases are decided on the evidence submitted in court and not what is written on news portals or newspapers or on the street.

The court also said it was tired of seeing and drawing attention to the lack of education on the use of social networks and media. “Every day it sees that even persons with responsibility upload posts without forethought and do not recognise the responsibility they have, especially when they are representatives of an institution. The courts themselves ended up abused and insulted on portals and social networks and had to continue to suffer in silence because they are precluded from commenting.”

The magistrate said he understood that society was shocked at what happened, but “our country is under the Rule of Law because its I a civilized country and to date a person aggrieved can find a remedy before the courts. 

When there are “baseless attacks against those keeping order in the country, society is embracing an asp that will kill it.”

In the circumstances, the court said it felt it must give out a clear signal to society that the forces of law and order “must have all protection and nobody has the right to ridicule them or incite against them because they leave home to work and want to return.” 

“It they do not get Gieh ir Repubblika, at least there would not be people inciting against them.”

Bail was denied in all three cases.

Lawyer Yanika Bugeja appeared for D’Amato.

Magstrate thanked by police union chief

In a Facebook post just after the magistrate denied bail, Sandro Camilleri from the Police Officers' Union thanked Mifsud for his words.