Cabinet advises President to grant dying prisoner bail

Christopher Bartolo was sentenced to a five-year prison term for trafficking cannabis and is in desperate need of treatment following a failed kidney transplant

The cabinet has recommended that President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca grant Christopher Bartolo bail pending a decision on his appeal by the Court of Criminal Appeal, the government said in a statement this evening.

The recommendation was made on the basis of a specific provision in the Criminal Code allowing the President to grant Bartolo bail.

Bartolo is currently serving a five-year prison sentence after he was found guilty of trafficking 1.5kg of cannabis last February.

He was arrested after spending six hours hooked up a dialysis machine at hospital, since he suffers from failing kidneys. Bartolo had received a kidney transplant some years ago and his health has been rapidly deteriorating behind bars. He was awaiting a court decision in order to receive intensive treatment.

“The recommendation was given after consideration of all the special circumstances that are particular to his case, and after the cabinet asked for an independent medical opinion,” the government said.

“Bail will be temporary and will be subject to a number of conditions, including that, with the exception of particular circumstances, Christopher Bartolo should not leave his residence.”

Earlier this month, Bartolo was told he would have to wait another month for court to decide on his bail request after his sitting was adjourned after the Court of Appeal put off all its sittings for the day, because one of the presiding judges was indisposed.

Bartolo’s lawyer Franco Debono has insisted on a number of occasions that his last hope for survival is personal intervention by the President and the Justice Minister.

His lawyers had filed Constitutional proceedings claiming that the man’s fundamental right to a fair trial had been breached when he was denied access to a lawyer during police interrogation. This claim was ultimately upheld by Madam Justice Jacqueline Padovani Grima in November.

The judge had declared that Bartolo’s right to a fair hearing had been breached and granted him the chance to change his guilty plea.

However, that remedy could not be used because the Attorney General had filed an appeal against the judgment, which is being heard by the Court of Appeal, presided over by Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri and Mr Justices Giannino Caruana Demajo and Noel Cuschieri.

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