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Libyan acquitted of human trafficking charges

Five Egyptian men contracted by a Libyan for a fishing trip attacked their employer, tied him up, and reported him to the police as a human trafficker, a court concluded.

Magistrate Anthony Vella cleared 32-year-old Libyan Abdulsalam Mohamed Abushaalah of human trafficking and of conspiring to traffic in human beings.

The Libyan and five Egyptians had been on board a fishing boat registered in Libya, in July 2008 when they were seen close to Maltese shores by an AFM patrol boat.

The Libyan jumped into the sea and swam to the AFM boat, spending a considerable amount of time trying to communicate with the Maltese soldiers.

Eventually, he boarded the patrol boat and the five Egyptians were also taken on board. The fishing boat was towed to Malta.

The Egyptians claimed that they were being trafficked to Italy by the Libyan, and that they had each paid him €3,000 for the trip.

The Libyan, on the other hand, said he had gone out fishing with the Egyptians who attacked him and held him against his will. They tied his hands and legs and took possession of his boat.

He only managed to escape when he saw the army vessel and jumped into the sea.

However, the police believed the Egyptians and charged the Libyan.

Magistrate Anthony Vella said in his judgement he was absolutely convinced that the true version of events was that given by the accused.

It could be that the police believed the version of the Egyptians because of what the country had been going through at the time, when boats full of people were arriving in Malta daily.

The court, Magistrate Vella said, had seen all the evidence and it could take a judgement.

The Libyan was the captian of a fishing boat and the five Egyptians had been registered as fishermen with the Libyan authorities. The required permits had been obtained for the boat to be taken out on a fishing trip.

The court concluded that it did not make sense for people to be trafficked from one country to another after signing an official work contract and after being given an official contract to work by a country’s authorities, simply to escape clandestinely.

It also did not make sense for the accused to obtain the required permits for a fishing trip and take responsibility for five people at sea and then return without them.

While it was easy for the Egyptians to give a corroborated account of what had happened, faced with all the evidence, it was clear that the boat was an equipped fishing boat.

It also did not make sense for the Libyan to only traffic five people when his boat could have taken more than 30 and the potential for profit was much higher.

The Libyan had explained in detail all he had gone through and documents had supported his claims.

Magistrate Vella said he managed to convince the court that he had told the truth.

Defece lawyers Giannella Caruana Curran and Joseph Giglio appeared for the Libyan.

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