Five men who were arrested on Monday in connection with an alleged abduction case, were remanded in custody after pleading not guilty upon their arraignment on Tuesday.

Syrian-nationals Alhasan Abdulrahman, 36,  Ghyas Dahrouj, 47, Dahrouj Safi, 30, and Hassan Ahmed, 27,  together with Tripoli-born Fadel Abdulsalam Ahmed Mohamed, 39, pleaded not guilty to involvement in the alleged abduction of a Syrian man.

The police on Monday said the case was rooted in the Syrian conflict between the government and rebels but gave no further details. No new details emerged on Tuesday other than that the abduction allegedly took place on January 13, between 3.30pm and 7pm.

Abdulrahman was separately charged with abducting the alleged victim, whilst being in possession of a knife without a police licence.

The other four men were charged with complicity in the crime and also with having caused their victim to fear violence.

Abdulrahman and Ahmed were also separately charged with having caused the victim and another person to fear violence. 

A request for bail was objected to by the prosecution, led by Inspector Omar Zammit, from the counter-terrorism unit, who explained that civilian witnesses, including the alleged victim and eyewitnesses, were still to testify.

Lawyer Kris Busietta, assisting the four Syrian nationals, argued that, although the charges were serious, there were various safeguards and measures which the court could impose to neutralise the prosecution’s fears.

Moreover, the alleged victims had already supplied their version to investigators and all the men had long-standing work and family ties in Malta.

Lawyer Lennox Vella, assisting the Libyan national, added that the accused was happily married to a Maltese woman for the past ten years, had a clean criminal record and was presumed innocent.

Moreover, given recent media reports about the COVID-19 situation at Corradino prison, any mandatory quarantine could interfere with the proceedings.

Magistrate Neville Camilleri remanded all five accused in custody, in view of the risk of tampering with evidence, urging the prosecution to summon civilian witnesses without delay.

Inspectors Omar Zammit and Geoffrey Cutajar prosecuted.

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