Rape trial put off - accused in detention for over five years
The trial by jury of four illegal immigrants who have been under arrest for the past five years and seven months pending rape charges, was this morning deferred after two lawyers renounced responsibility and one of the accused did not engage another lawyer.
At least one of the accused had been granted bail in the intervening period, but was then re-arrested.
During proceedings this morning, one of the lawyers, Joe Brincat said that he only found out about the trial by coincidence on Friday afternoon when the deputy registrar informed him that the trial was most likely to be put off because lawyer Franco Debono had renounced the case.
Dr Brincat added that his own client was not in the least bit interested and was very arrogant with him.
Dr Debono informed the court on his decision on Friday afternoon after having known since July about the trial, Mr Justice Michael Mallia said.
(Dr Debono told timesofmalta.com that he had informed his client of his decision months ago, and had also not appeared in proceedings on breach of bail. He did not need to take further action but filed a note on Friday pointing out how the client was notified months ago. The note was filed on Friday by Dr Marion Camilleri at the request of the Court Registrar. It was then up to the client to engage another lawyer)
The accused, three from Somalia and another from Sudan, are in their 20s and 30s.
Legal aid lawyer Malcolm Mifsud, who is also appearing for the men, said that he was only notified about Dr Debono's renunciation of the brief at 4 pm on Friday.
Given this situation he was unable to prepare a sufficient defence given that the men were facing a total of 18 charges.
The trial was postponed to Wednesday after Dr Mifsud said that he was going to review the case and declare any possible conflict of interest because he was representing one other accused.