Men accused of armed robbery claim breach of human rights

The two men are awaiting trial for a 2000 armed robbery and have been awaiting one witness’ testimony for over two years


Two men are behind bars and a further two men awaiting trial for the murder of Alphonse Ferrigi (photo) in September 2000
Two men are behind bars and a further two men awaiting trial for the murder of Alphonse Ferrigi (photo) in September 2000

Two men who were allegedly involved in an armed robbery 18-years-ago have initiated proceedings before the constitutional court in which they claim a breach of their rights.

James Vella, 38, and Christopher Scerri, 40, were arraigned in 2014, over their alleged involvement in the killing of bank employee Alphonse Ferrigi back in 2000.

Ferrigi was shot dead early in the morning on 18 September 2000 as he was delivering internal mail to the Bank of Valletta branch in San Gwann. His assailants made off with his bag. 

Two men, Richard Grech and Joseph Zammit, were both found guilty for their involvement in the murder. Grech was sentenced to life imprisonment, following a trial by jury in 2011. Zammit was handed a 30-year jail term in 2009.

The two men had allegedly told the police about the involvement of Vella and Scerri, leading to their arraignment in 2014.

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In their application, signed by lawyers Franco Debono, Amadeus Cachia and Marion Camilleri, the two men say that the Attorney General’s office had called all witnesses that were to testify in the case, with the exception of Grech, who is awaiting the outcome of an appeal and therefore cannot testify.

Despite refusing to testify, the two men said that 18 out of 34 postponements during proceedings were due to the fact that the AG’s office was insisting on Grech’s testimony.

“Richard Grech was never asked to testify and to explain under oath that he is truly awaiting the outcome of criminal proceedings which are at the appeal stage, and the applicants are relying solely on declarations made by the prosecution, when the person in question is meant to testify in court under oath that he can’t incriminate himself because of pending procedures.”

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The applicants said that as a result, they had spent the last two years turning up for court hearings for no reason.

The two men said that the situation was similar that encountered during criminal proceedings against an associate of former European Commissioner John Dalli, over an alleged €60 million bribery case.

In that particular case, the Court had said that the law courts hearing the compilation of evidence against Zammit could not delay the process any longer over the inability to summon a witness to testify in the proceedings.

The applicants called on the courts to declare that the delay in the proceedings has resulted in a breach of their right to a fair hearing as outlined in Article 6 of the European Convention and Article 39 of the Maltese Constitution.

Furthermore, they requested that the court grant an “effective remedy and provide appropriate means of safeguarding the rights” of the accused.

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