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Guilty or not guilty? Man tests magistrate's patience

A Gambian national residing at the Marsa Open Centre tested a magistrate's patience today when he kept changing his plea after being accused of aggravated theft and of cannabis possession that was allegedly not intended for his own personal use. 

Osman Jarju, of uncertain age, given that three different birth dates were exhibited by the prosecuting officer, was charged with having stolen an iPad from St Julian's and with having been in possession of cannabis resin. The two episodes date back to last January however, the police were unable to arraign the man since he changed address without informing the authorities. 

The accused was also charged with trafficking cannabis yesterday in St Paul's Bay. 

Proceedings took an unexpected turn when the man, after pleading not guilty, apparently had a change of mind. Signalling to the court his confusion, the accused explained, " I understand English but I don't understand how you speak to me. I have never been to court." 

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit patiently requested lawyer Mark Mifsud Cutajar, appearing as legal aid, to explain to his client the nature of the charges. Having done so, the defence confirmed that the accused was pleading not guilty. No request for bail was made given the personal circumstances of the accused. 

Just when the accused was being led away, he suddenly returned to the courtroom and insisted once again that he wanted to change his plea. The magistrate, whose patience was evidently tested to the limit, explained slowly and clearly that the accused could alter his plea during the next sitting. 

The man, hands in pockets and nodding in agreement, finally walked away under police custody.

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