Man accused of attempted armed hold-up is also awaiting trial for murder

Armed men stopped a car and demanded €20,000, but left empty handed

A Libyan national, currently awaiting trial for the murder of Simon Grech in Marsa 12 years ago, has been released on bail after being arraigned today over an attempted hold-up which took place in Qormi last Sunday.

Tripoli-born Ismael Habesh, 46, was arrested in a house in Targa Gap, Mosta, hours after Sunday's incident, in which two armed men allegedly stopped a car and demanded €20,000 from the driver. They left empty handed after the occupants of the car resisted and apparently identified one of the assailants.

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This morning the Libyan man, whose criminal record shows a number of past convictions for theft and slight bodily harm, was arraigned on charges of aggravated theft, carrying a weapon, being in possession of firearms in public without the necessary licence and breaching the peace.

He was also charged with breaching earlier bail conditions besides being a relapser.

After pleading not guilty to the charges, the man’s defence lawyers requested bail, pointing out that the charges gave the impression that the crime was more serious than it actually was.

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The prosecution argued that there were many civilian witnesses who still had to testify, including the driver of the Mercedes, the two passengers as well as some patrons at a nearby shop who had witnessed the whole episode.

It was also observed that the accused had failed to sign the bail book on one occasion and that this had not been a matter of chance, adding that this was no “light case” since weapons were involved.

The defence argued that the presence of CCTV cameras in the area reduced the possibility of evidence being tampered with.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit, upheld the request for bail against a deposit of €1,000 and a personal guarantee of €9,000, besides imposing a curfew and an order to sign the bail book on a daily basis.

Inspectors Saviour Baldacchino and Roderick Agius prosecuted.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Amadeus Cachia were defence counsel.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi appeared parte civile.