The Malta Independent 5 August 2021, Thursday

Karol Aquilina forgives man who said PN MP should be hanged

Friday, 9 July 2021, 14:48 Last update: about 26 days ago

A man who called for the torture and public execution of a PN MP has pleaded guilty to criminal charges and apologised.

Stephen Cauchi, of Qormi appeared before magistrate Simone Grech on Friday afternoon, as the case against him was called.

Cauchi was charged after posting a Facebook comment suggesting that Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina should be “hanged and tied to the statue of St Nicholas in Siggiewi and pierced with knitting needles,” which caused uproar on social media.

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Aquilina subsequently uploaded a screenshot of the comment made, saying that he would not be stopped from speaking out. “Someone thinks that I should be killed in the Siggiewi square and then my body subjected to violence. This incitement for violence and hatred against me will not shut me up and I will not be stopped from continuing to work for justice and the truth.”

This afternoon before magistrate Simone Grech, Vice Squad Inspector Joseph Busuttil exhibited the accused’s criminal record and the complaint by Aquilina. The accused had refused to consult a lawyer whilst being spoken to by the police, making his refusal in writing.

Busuttil explained that Aquilina had filed a report to the police, claiming hate speech against him. The police Cybercrime unit had investigated and later identified Cauchi.

Defence lawyer Joe Sammut told the court that the accused was going to admit the charges.

Aquilina took the stand to explain his situation to assist the court with calibrating punishment.

He explained that he had made a speech in parliament about Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, which was extensively reported. Amongst the news stories was a Newsbook story. The accused had written the comment under the article and Aquilina had reported it to the police, who investigated and identified Cauchi.

“Normally I don’t pay attention to people who write bad things about me, but when violence is incited against me no… I have had people chase me, I have had people sending me packets with drugs, I have had people heckle me in the streets.”

Aquilina said that he had later found out that a relative of the accused was a good friend of his.

“Every Day I am followed, heckled or threatened in Valletta. This speech can give ideas to people.”

“I am forgiving him and am not expecting any punishment. I understand that he is sorry and didn’t want to harm me. But this speech should not be acceptable against myself or others.”

Inspector Busuttil said that the accused had already apologised to Aquilina, but Cauchi did so once again in court. “I am sorry for what I did because he is a friend of mine like his siblings and I apologise,” he said.

He pleaded guilty to the charges and was given time to reconsider. He confirmed his guilty plea.

The court will hand down its sentence on July 16.

Lawyers Joe Sammut and Natalia Camilleri were defence counsel.

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