The Malta Independent 27 February 2021, Saturday

Court acquits Neville Gafa of threatening Italian journalist in migration tweet

Tuesday, 15 December 2020, 11:03 Last update: about 3 months ago

A court today acquitted former OPM official Neville Gafa of accusations that he threatened Italian journalist Nello Scavo in a twitter exchange last summer.

In her ruling, Magistrate Charmaine Galea said she was unconvinced by the claim made by the journalist, who works for the Milanese newspaper Avvenire and has been under police protection since October 2019.

The tweet - “Stop your dirty business. If not we will be stopping you” - was Gafa’s reply to another tweet by Scavo on a thread linked to NGO Alarm Phone that reprimanded European countries for supporting the Libyan coastguard in the return of migrants back to Libya.

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The court noted that at the time of the Twitter exchange last June, Scavo did not react in such a way that suggested he had perceived Gafa’s comment as a threat.

The court also noted that it was strange that Scavo did not file a police report in Italy, ruling that he had failed to explain in what way he had found the tweet to be threatening.

The court said proceedings in Malta only started the journalists contacts in Malta informed the police, almost a month after the exchange.

When testifying during proceedings, Gafa denied having the intention to threaten Scavo, insisting his comment was directed towards Alarm Phone because he knew how they operated.

Gafa said his was a political comment about illegal immigration and the work conducted by rescue NGOs and not a call to violence.

Given all the circumstances, the magistrate ruled that Scavo’s claim that he felt threatened by Gafa’s tweet was not objective and acquitted the latter from all charges.

The prosecution was led by inspectors Fabian Fleri and Lydon Zammit. Gafa was represented by lawyer Edward Gatt.

Gafa's role at the OPM was terminated in January when Robert Abela became prime minister. 

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