A Somali man who was punched, dragged along the street and thrown into the sea "like a sack" in Mġarr, Gozo had been drinking at a pub there before being ordered out by a bouncer, a court heard on Friday.   

Mohamed Hassan Ismail, 27, told a court that he had had “eight Skol beers” when a bouncer at the establishment ordered him out. 

He recalled how 21-year-old Deelian Mifsud had then stepped in, telling him over and over again to leave the area. 

Ismail said he refused to do so, insisting, “I am doing nothing wrong and I will stay here.” 

The argument raged on for around 15 minutes until finally Mifsud grabbed him and threw him straight into the water, the victim recalled, adding that he had injured his fingers as he hit a boat that was berthed at the quay.

His bag, containing his personal possessions including some €150 in cash, went into the water too, said the witness, explaining further that his mobile phone was damaged and had to be replaced. 

A stranger then helped him back ashore, Ismail said.

Mifsud stands accused of attempted grievous bodily harm, slightly injuring the alleged victim, damaging his phone, breaching the peace and also breaching a probation order. He is pleading not guilty. 

The July 18 incident made headlines last month after an eyewitness described on social media how a group of men had turned on the alleged victim, cheered on by a crowd of onlookers from nearby catering establishments.  

Video footage of the incident was also published by Times of Malta.

Surrounded and then dumped 'like a sack'

The man who shared that video, Andrew Abela, also took the witness stand on Friday. Abela was seated at a nearby table, having a beer.

He testified that the argument broke out after the alleged victim, who he later spoke to, had been ordered out of a bar by a bouncer. 

A group of men began to hit him and someone had even grabbed him by the shoe and dragged him along the street, as someone remarked, “dak mhux iswed” [isn't he black?].

That testimony prompted a strong statement by presiding magistrate Joseph Mifsud, who condemned discrimination on the basis of skin colour. 

“Those requiring protection should receive it and should enjoy full rights as long as they respect the country’s laws,” stated the court.

As the violence continued, a man seated at a nearby table with a party of friends, suddenly crossed over to the Somali man, punched him, told him to leave and then returned to his table.

But the argument persisted.

That was when the same man, identified as Mifsud, stood up a second time, pushed aside the table, strode over to the alleged victim, grabbed him forcefully “like a sack” and flung him into the sea, cheered on by the crowd. 

Asked about racist comments, the witness confirmed that the remark “dak mhux iswed” had not been uttered by Mifsud.  

Once the Somali man had managed to get back on land, Abela approached him and did his best to calm him down.

There was no smell of alcohol, the witness said.

As for the footage, the witness explained that it had been passed on to him by a friend who was a member of a social media group. 

Police officers also testified about how they had been alerted to the commotion at Triq Martino Garces, Mġarr by a woman who claimed that a man had been thrown into the sea.

“They’re going to kill him,” she said. 

Officers who immediately rushed to the scene of the incident recalled how they had found Ismail in a highly agitated state. 

The bouncer who was also summoned to testify on Friday, landed a €350 fine for contempt of court for failing to turn up and was ordered to testify at the next sitting under a warrant of arrest.

The court appointed an IT expert to download stills from footage of the incident that had been published by Times of Malta.

Meanwhile, the court also issued a five-year Protection Order in favour of the alleged victim.

The case continues next month. 

Inspector Josef Gauci prosecuted. Lawyer Antonio Depasquale was defence counsel. Lawyers Franco Debono and Francesca Zarb are appearing parte civile. 

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