The Malta Independent 29 January 2023, Sunday
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Prosecution forced to withdraw two charges in Sion Grech trial after embarrassing blunder

Wednesday, 18 January 2023, 16:36 Last update: about 10 days ago

Prosecutors have been forced to admit an embarrassing error and withdraw two heads of the indictment, as the trial of two men accused of the murder of Sion Grech reached its closing stages this morning.

Today’s shocking development in the trial of Ismael Habesh from Libya and Faical Mahouachi from Tunisia, is unlikely to be overlooked by the defence lawyers in their closing arguments, who are expected to exploit the error to the fullest extent possible, seeding doubt in the minds of jurors.

At the end of the prosecution’s lengthy closing address to the jury, lawyer Anthony Vella from the Office of the Attorney General, who is prosecuting together with lawyer Abigail Caruana, asked the jurors not to find guilt on the second and third heads of indictment, which relate to the use of a knife in a homicide and the lack of a permit to carry the knife.

The reason, Vella explained, was an oversight by the prosecution which meant that the men had been indicted for offences which had not yet been introduced at the time the murder took place.

Jurors were, however, encouraged to find the accused guilty of the first head of indictment, relating to wilful homicide. “Scientific facts corroborate that said by Jacqueline Rapinett, the principal witness to the murder of Sion Grech, 2005. Court expert Mario Scerri testified that the wounds had been on the front of the victim’s body, strengthening the claims she made in her testimony.”

Vella said that investigators had been meticulous in confirming all the facts of the case and that Rapinett had not tried to add or remove anything from her account was proof of its authenticity.

The prosecutor told jurors that no investigation is perfect and that “all the pieces of the jigsaw will never be found,” adding that it did not make sense to give weight to defence arguments picking on minor points.

He reminded the jury that it wasn’t the police or their work who were on trial, urging them not to seek certainty. “Certainty only belongs to the divine,” said the prosecutor.

Rapinett had seen Habesh beating Grech to the ground, he said, pointing to the witness’ testimony. The victim had lost consciousness at a point, but had tried to defend herself from her killer, Habesh. Mahouachi had then emerged from his Ford Escort and together with the other man, picked up the victim and dumped her in a field.

The conclusion of prosecution arguments will be followed by the defence’s reply, before the judge begins his summing up. The jury will then retire to deliberate with the aim of emerging with a verdict.

Lawyers Edward Gatt and Ishmael Psaila are representing Habesh, whilst lawyer Simon Micallef Stafrace is defence counsel to Mahouachi. Lawyer Roberto Montalto is appearing as parte civile for the Grech family.

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