The defence counsel on behalf of Angelo Zahra had requested a Constitutional Reference before the Court of Magistrates as a Court of Criminal Inquiry, claiming that the applicant’s right to a fair trial within a reasonable time is being breached. 18 years after arresting Zahra back in 2001, the Prosecution has not yet brought forward all evidence.
Magistrate Neville Camilleri, presiding over the Court of Magistrates as a Court of Criminal Inquiry had decided that the Constitutional Reference is not of a vexatious nature and thus, it was accepted.
While the Attorney General insisted that the length of the proceedings is not unreasonable and that the Constitutional Reference was instituted prematurely, the applicant represented by Lawyers Joseph Giglio and Sarah Mifsud, stressed that it is absurd that the applicant has, after 18 years, not yet been given the opportunity to start producing evidence, having all his assets frozen and being subject to bail conditions.
The Court declared that it is unacceptable that the Attorney General subjects the accused to a situation where criminal proceedings are at a standstill due to the fact that some of the witnesses who the AG insists on producing, cannot give evidence before their own proceedings are concluded, since they can incriminate themselves.
The First Hall Civil Court (Constitutional Jurisdiction) has decided in favour of the applicant and against the Attorney General, deeming the amount of time which the Prosecution is taking to conclude its evidence, to have breached the applicant’s right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time.
Consequently, Judge Mark Chetcuti gave instructions to the Attorney General to conclude their evidence.
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