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Soldiers ‘dealt blows’ to migrant in 2011 death

Protesters marching last night in reaction to the death in custody of Mamadou Kamara. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Protesters marching last night in reaction to the death in custody of Mamadou Kamara. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Two soldiers dealt several “blows” to a Nigerian migrant, possibly causing his death last year, an inquiry into the April 2011 incident found.

This is the first time it emerges from official sources that Ifeanyi Nwokoye, 29, was hit by soldiers.

The government said last week there were several officers “directly involved” in the man’s demise but gave no details of what led to the man’s death.

The case is the subject of an ongoing magisterial inquiry that is expected to shed more light on the cause of Mr Nwokoye’s death. Once the magisterial inquiry is concluded, the government has pledged to publish the full report drawn up by a board of inquiry headed by Martin Scicluna.

Mr Nwokoye’s death received fresh attention recently following the alleged murder of Malian Mamadou Kamara. Two soldiers have been accused of Mr Kamara’s murder.

As details emerge, the similarities between the two cases become more striking, raising questions about whether more effective action last year could have prevented this year’s incident.

The report into last year’s incident, sources said, recommended disciplinary action against four Armed Forces of Malta soldiers.

‘Soldiers dealt blows’

One of them, the inquiry had found, punched an Algerian migrant in the eye when he had been apprehended after escaping detention. The soldier faced disciplinary action, although it is not publicly known what sort of action was taken.

Disciplinary action has also been taken against two soldiers whose “negligence” was found to have resulted in the escape of seven migrants, including Mr Nwokoye.

One of these two soldiers was also involved in the physical attack on Mr Nwokoye together with a fourth soldier, the sources said. However, no disciplinary action had been taken over the use of violence due to the ongoing magisterial inquiry.

All four soldiers were transferred from the Detention Service.

The sources noted that since the inquiry was never given access to the results of the autopsy on Mr Nwokoye, despite several requests, it was not able to conclude whether the blows he had received were excessive and had been the cause of his death.

Another possibility could be that Mr Nwokoye died of a weak heart or some other physical predisposition.

According to Magistrate Antonio Micallef Trigona, the magisterial inquiry will be concluded “soon”. It was delayed because of a “crucial” report on tests carried out abroad that were only concluded recently.

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