Court rejects application for man's release from custody

'The constitutional court did not say the man's arrest was illegal'

Following yesterday's decision by a Constitutional Court annulling two earlier judgments and declaring that a Maltese man was not to be extradited to Lithuania, a magistrate's court has today declared that the man's continued detention at the Corradino Correctional Facilities is to stand.

Angelo Frank Spiteri had been arrested and arraigned in December 2015 on the strength of a European Arrest Warrant issued by the authorities in Lithuania where the man was to face charges of swindling, falsification of documents and fraud.

Following a decision by a magistrate's court, later confirmed on appeal, the extradition request was upheld and Mr Spiteri was remanded in custody.

Read: Court turns down Lithuanian request to extradite Maltese man

However, on the basis of a constitutional review, the Civil Court, yesterday quashed those two earlier judgments and declared that there existed "substantial grounds to believe" that the man could face a real risk of inhuman and degrading treatment if extradited in view of the "objective, reliable, specific and properly updated" proof of the terrible conditions prevalent in Lithuanian prisons.

Yesterday evening, just as Mr Spiteri was about to leave Corradino, the prison authorities received instructions not to allow the man's release. This prompted his lawyers to file an urgent application, known as Habeas Corpus, before the duty magistrate alleging that such continued arrest went against the spirit of yesterday's constitutional judgment.

Today, the court presided over by magistrate Neville Camilleri, after hearing submissions by the man's lawyers as well as lawyers representing the AG's office, decided that the man's detention was to stand.

The court observed that in its judgment, the constitutional court yesterday did not say the man's arrest was illegal. Nor did it expressly provide for his release from jail. "This court cannot assume what the civil court in its constitutional jurisdiction intended to say or not say" the magistrate declared.

Moreover, it was noted that there still existed the possibility of an appeal by the AG, which meant that yesterday's judgment was not yet final.

Lawyers Victoria Buttigieg and Elaine Mercieca Rizzo appeared for the AG's office.
Lawyers Jason Azzopardi, Eve Borg Costanzi and Julian Farrugia were counsel to the applicant.