Man cleared of attempted murder in stabbing incident over Libyan political turmoil

The court ruled the accused's stabbing of another man had been done in self-defence

Police at the scene of the incident in Swieqi in 2016
Police at the scene of the incident in Swieqi in 2016

A Libyan man has been cleared of the attempted murder of a fellow countryman in a Swieqi flat in a near-fatal 2016 fight over sectarian violence in Libya after a court ruled he stabbed the man in self-defence.

Zouhir Elfezqa, 34, who lives in Swieqi and a second man, 24-year-old Mohammed Abdul Hafid Abukem, also of Swieqi had been accused of the attempted murder of Wadea Al Maghrbi, 29, as well as inflicting grievous injuries on him and Mohamed Hafed Al-Arara on 30 January 2016.

Smelling of alcohol, Al Maghrbi and Mohamed Abdul Hafid Abukem had called at an apartment occupied by Elfezqa and al-Arara that day, the court had been told. A confrontation with Elfezqa ensued, during which Al Maghrbi was stabbed and left in danger of dying.

Elfezqa had said that on the day of the stabbing, he had been asleep on the couch in the Swieqi apartment when his assailant had attacked him with a metal rod, accusing “his people” of having taken his brother in Libya. The men had ties to rival factions in the civil war-torn country.

He had given the court a dramatic account of the fight that ensued, saying that Al Maghrbi had hit him in the chin with the metal rod, before pulling out a knife. The two had wrestled for control of the weapon and fell to the ground. He had pushed Al Maghrbi, he said.

 “He was going to stab me. I wanted to protect myself. I thought I was going to die ...I had been hit in the head and in the leg and he was drunk,” he had testified.

Elfezqa told the court that he had needed stitches to his chin as a result of the attack.

Al-Maghrbi was charged in  separate proceedings, with attempting to inflict grievous bodily harm on Elfezqa, causing him slight injuries, holding him against his will and carrying a knife without a police permit. In a separate judgment today, he was jailed for 20 months.

Magistrate Josette Demicoli, deciding the case against Elfezqa this morning, had heard both the accused and the victim as well as other witnesses. The accused had consistently insisted that he had acted only to defend himself, noted the court, before going on to examine the requisites of legal self-defence.               

The accused had been faced with a danger that was real, instantaneous and absolute, ruled the court.

The magistrate said that the version of events given by the accused was closer to the truth than that given by his alleged victim, noting that it had been corroborated by another witness. Wadea al Maghrbi and Mohamed Abdul Hafid Abukem had entered [the accused’s] residence and not simply stood in the doorway. This is evidenced by the blood found in the living room of the apartment.

The accused had been asleep in his bedroom at the time and there was no argument that could have been provoked by him, said the court, observing that it had emerged that this aggression took place because of the situation in Libya.

Moreover, Al Maghrbi and Abukem had been armed with a knife each and the former also with a metal pipe. The accused’s injuries were compatible with his version of having been hit over the head while asleep. It was probable that Al Maghrbi was injured with his own knife when the accused had twisted his arm, said the court.

Elfezqa was declared not guilty of all charges.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi was defence counsel to Elfezqa.

Police Inspectors James Grech and Elton Taliana prosecuted.

More in Court & Police