The Malta Independent 23 February 2024, Friday
View E-Paper

Judge declares constitutional case filed by Jomic Calleja Maatouk 'irregular and null'

Monday, 12 February 2024, 17:38 Last update: about 10 days ago

A judge has dismissed as "irregular and null," constitutional proceedings for discovery filed last year by Jomic Calleja Maatouk who was charged with attempting to import a high-yield plastic explosive which had been bought on the dark web.

Calleja Maatouk had been arrested in 2020 following the controlled delivery of a package that had been intercepted by the police and found to contain the military explosive known as C4. The interception was the result of cooperation between foreign and local intelligence services.

ADVERTISEMENT

It was also revealed that Calleja had also discussed importing ricin, fentanyl as well as the poisonous radioactive substance polonium-210, a substance which had famously been used to assassinate Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) defector and prominent critic of Vladimir Putin, in 2006. 

He was eventually convicted in July 2023 and sentenced to imprisonment for 5 years, also being ordered to surrender €51,000 in bail guarantees. After filing an appeal, Calleja Maatouk was released on bail pending his appeal and had subsequently absconded. He remains at large.

In February 2022, while the criminal proceedings against him had still been ongoing, his lawyer, Benjamin Valenzia, had cross-examined police superintendent George Cremona and asked him where the tip off about the dark web purchase had come from. That question had been disallowed by the court as it requested the disclosure of intelligence that the Superintendent could not testify about. 

Valenzia had filed the constitutional proceedings after another request for the same information, this time made through an application for disclosure of the evidence against his client, was also refused. An application for an interim measure, which would have suspended the criminal proceedings against Calleja Maatouk until the constitutional complaint had been resolved, was also rejected. 

The lawyer had argued that the evidence used to convict Calleja Maatouk was inadmissible because it was not subject to disclosure, and had been gathered in the United States, where, unlike Malta, the 'fruit of the poisonous tree' doctrine applies.

The defendants: the Commissioner of Police, the Attorney General and the State Advocate, had refuted the insinuation of any wrongdoing on their part, citing case law which had established that the entitlement to disclosure of relevant evidence was not an absolute right, but had to be weighed against competing interests, such as national security or the need to protect witnesses at risk of reprisals or to maintain the secrecy of the investigation methods used by the police. The defendants also pointed out that the 'fruit of the poisonous tree' doctrine had not been accepted by Malta's courts.

It was successfully argued that the term "intelligence" included any information which had been used to point the investigation in the direction which led to the collection of evidence, but the right of disclosure only applied to 'material evidence,' that is to say, evidence that is both relevant and important enough to be exhibited in the acts of the proceedings. 

In a decision handed down on Monday morning, the judge upheld the defendants' arguments, and observed that Calleja Maatouk's application for a constitutional reference, which had been denied and the application by which these constitutional proceedings had been filed were materially the same. "Therefore this court feels that it should not pronounce itself on the merits of the proceedings at hand, as they have already been declared to be frivolous and vexatious by the Court of Magistrates in its decree rejecting his request for a constitutional reference."

The judge denied application and declared it to be irregular and null, ordering that the costs of the case be borne by Calleja Maatouk.

 


  • don't miss