The Malta Independent 20 October 2017, Friday

3 Eritreans involved in altercation with police denied bail, claim officers were aggressors

Tuesday, 29 August 2017, 14:09 Last update: about 3 months ago

A group of three people involved in a violent altercation with police officers today were denied bail after pleading not guilty to the charges. The three claimed that the police officers had been the aggressors in the confrontation. 

The incident occurred on 28 August at 9.15am after Police Officers PS C Azzopardi and PC J Falzon stopped a two-seater van in Marsa after noticing that it held four passengers; Eritreans Helen Taddese and Teklesembet Yohannes Afewerki; Ethiopian Michael Wubshet Bekele; and a fourth individual who was not in court today.

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Inspector Elliott Magro, who was representing the prosecution, told the court that when police officers stopped the vehicle and began to question Bekele, who was driving the vehicle, the accused pushed one of the officers and punched him in the face, breaking the officer’s glasses. 

He went on to say that while the officers were attempting to arrest Bekele, Taddese and Afewerki then emerged from the vehicle and began assaulting the police officers.

Once the three were apprehended, Magro said that one of the police officers noticed a smell of alcohol off Bekele, who was later found to have been intoxicated while driving the vehicle, which was also found to not have any registration. 

The lawyer representing the three told the court, which was presided over by Magistrate Joe Mifsud, that quite the opposite had taken place, and that his client was claiming that it was the police who were the aggressors and had initiated the confrontation.

Bekele, then stood up and began showing wounds on his hand, leg, face and torso to the magistrate. 

The Magistrate explained that bail could not be given on the basis that the perpetrators had taken the law into their own hands and had assaulted police officers. 

The lawyer argued that bail should be granted as it was too early to say were the violence had started from.

However, the magistrate said that bail needs to be discussed in the context of the individual and society, and that by physically impeding the police and preventing them from performing their duty the individuals had caused a danger to society. 

Lawyers Francine Abela and Jason Grima are representing Taddese, Afewerki, and Bekele.

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