Six accused of savage Paceville assault

Victims claim the attack was unprovoked

Six men were accused in court today of involvement in the savage beating of two foreign men, the footage of which was captured on CCTV and went viral on social media.

Inspector Trevor Micallef accused Simon Cassar of Swatar, William Briguglio of Valletta, Carmelo Zammit of Valletta, Carmel Sghendo and Jurghen Sghendo of Msida and Ezekiel George Mintoff of St Venera of causing grievous injuries to a Syrian and a Jordanian, with instigating a fight and with disturbing the peace by shouting and fighting. The ages of the accused range from 23 to 53.

The incident occurred two months ago outside Clique in Paceville. Mahmoud Ahmad Al Smadi and Ali Alhasan suffered grievous injuries as a result of the attack and one of them may lose his sight.

Ali Alhasan was escorted to court from Corradino prison, where he has been held since Sunday afternoon when he was charged with the rape of a 12-year-old girl.

All but one of the accused did not have the licence required to work as security guards, Magistrate Joe Mifsud heard. Inspector Micallef told the court that CCTV footage did not capture the attack in its entirety and that the victims had recalled different numbers of assailants, varying from 10 to 20.

Police had identified some of the accused from file photographs and the footage.

Answering a question from defence lawyer Kathleen Grima, the inspector said that no identification parade was held. The two victims were shown photographs of the suspects and had not identified the assailants, but the police had arrived at the identities themselves, he explained.

Lawyer Charlon Gouder asked if more than two foreign men had been involved. A third person had been seen trying to calm the situation down, he said, but after the man was floored, the third person was seen taking off his shirt and inviting the bouncers to fight.

Inspector Micallef said that when the police arrived they saw two men injured covered in blood on the ground.

Al Smadi, who lives in Rabat testified that he and Ali al Hasan were going home and he saw one of the bouncers whom he knew, he said, pointing to Jurgen Sghendo.

“He hit me on the head from behind and the others joined in.”

“As soon as I got the blow at the nape of my neck I got dizzy and then they surrounded me. They came from everywhere.” He said he could not recognise the man who hit him at the back of the head. 

Al Smadi said he had been left partially deaf from his left ear and had suffered a fracture above his orbital ridge. His nose was also broken.

Ali al Hasan from Aleppo, Syria, and now living in Marsaskala testified how he had gone to Paceville with a friend. Near Clique, he identified Simon Cassar, Ezekiel Mintoff, Jurgen Sghendo.

“The first one, Simon Cassar, grabbed a bottle and hit me with it. Jurgen Sghendo pushed me into the glass door. There was absolutely no fighting before this incident.”

Dr Grima asked him if he had seen the footage on the internet or TV before going to the police. It was unclear whether he been shown any pictures by the police, the witness appearing to contradict himself.

Dr Ellul pointed out that the witness, Al Hasan, had been held in prison overnight on the unconnected rape charge, but Magistrate Mifsud pointed out that the man was as innocent as Ellul's client was at this stage.

The magistrate issued a provisional protection order in favour of the two victims until the case is concluded

Lawyer Andy Ellul said the defence was reserving the right to take legal steps against “those who clearly and in breach of the data protection act, circulated the footage in question on social media.”

The court replied that it “wasn't going to stand in their way” saying it wanted to make it very clear that it had taken a consistent line on the abuse of social media, but the court was not going to censor the media “who are the watchdog in our country.

At times, the court feels, it is the judiciary and the media who are protecting the interests of society and those who live in this country.- Magistrate

“At times, the court feels, it is the judiciary and the media who are protecting the interests of society and those who live in this country. The media should not be a lapdog but a guard dog and the court is prepared to protect the media in the carrying out of its duties as long as these are carried out in line with the country's laws and the code of ethics.”

Dr Ellul replied that he was not against journalism, but argued that the sharing of CCTV footage from a public place was a breach of the Data Protection Act. “There is a difference between broadcasting unedited footage and protecting the innocent.”  

The court decreed that there was sufficient evidence for the Attorney General to issue a bill of indictment against the men. The case continues next month.