The Malta Independent 22 February 2020, Saturday

El Hiblu migrants told police they would rather die than go back to Libya

Thursday, 12 September 2019, 11:47 Last update: about 6 months ago

Three teenagers accused of terrorism when they hijacked merchant vessel El Hiblu, preventing it from returning to Libya, had told police during their interrogation that they “would rather die in the Mediterranean than go back to Libya.”

The youths, aged 15, 16, and 19, are being charged with terrorism and hijacking a merchant vessel that had rescued them. Back in March, some 100 migrants who were attempting to flee from Libya were rescued in international waters.

The migrants on board were initially and allegedly informed that they would be taken to Europe, only to then turn around and head back to Libya. The migrants allegedly used tools to bang against the side of the ship and forced the vessel to steer towards Malta.

The tools used were submitted in court on Thursday.

Police inspector Crista Armeni said that some of these tools might have been thrown overboard. She added that while the El Hiblu had been recently refurbished, the tools the migrants used had left marks on the gunwale. 

“How can you say that those marks were made by the tools?” defence lawyer Cedric Mifsud asked.

While Armeni said that she could not confirm and that she had not brought any photos of the damage to the ship, she recounted how she had seen rust marks on all sides of the ship.

Mifsud also informed the court that while a request for bail had been filed, the prison authorities had continuously shown resistance to lawyers meeting their clients with “much needed” interpreters. 

The defence argued that prison authorities have often been wary of interpreters and asking whether they could possibly be acting as journalists. 

The Office of the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights had previously called on Malta to reconsider the terrorism charges on the three teenagers, saying such a charge was extravagant. 

The case has been adjourned to 24 October.

Lawers Cedric Mifsud, Neil Falzon and Gianluca Cappitta appeared for the three migrant youths.


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