Updated with details at 10.13am.

A man who in a Facebook post said he would “hurl a barrel of acid" at Repubblika president Repubblika president Robert Aquilina was sentenced to nine months imprisonment suspended for three years on Tuesday. He was also fined €5,000.

Johann Vella was convicted of hate speech over a comment he wrote in March  under a post by Godwin Schembri.

Schembri had shared a story about a protest organised by the NGO Repubblika outside former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s Sa Maison office on March 1.

That protest followed a damning judgement which had just been delivered about the fraudulent hospitals’ privatisation deal. 

Vella's comment ran along the lines that “if some clown sticks trash on my property I would hurl a barrel of acid at him,” adding that Aquilina was “trash.”

Aquilina had told the court that he interpreted that as a threat and as instigating violence against him. 

He also complained that such comments had an effect on his life and that of my family as others might put words into action. 

When delivering judgment, Magistrate Ian Farrugia observed that Aquilina as NGO president, was “vociferous” in his criticism not only against the government and other top figures, but also against former prime minister Joseph Muscat. 

The political climate was highly charged and while Repubblika and Aquilina had followers, Muscat’s figure was certainly viewed as important in the eyes of those who supported him. 

Muscat had to accept criticism against him, no matter how harsh, although he had a right to ensure that such criticism fell within legal parameters. 

The same applied to Aquilina, observed the court. 

In this case, Aquilina’s press conference which triggered the whole episode, was “clear, direct, but above all else, peaceful.” 

The same could not be said about Vella who opted to resort to words that were not only harsh but doubtlessly threatening and abusive.

Taken in context, his comment amounted to incitement to violence and hatred against Aquilina. It was blatantly in breach of law.

The particular provision was designed by the legislator to place a limit on personal liberty in a society “that aspires to be civilized and democratic.”

When all was considered the court declared Vella guilty and condemned him to a nine-month jail term suspended for three years and a fine of €5000.

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