River of Love member Matthew Grech appeared in court on Friday to face charges of having breached a ban on gay conversion therapy.  

He is pleading not guilty to the charge.

Grech is alleged to have promoted gay conversion therapy when appearing as guest on a PMnews Malta show.

Along with Grech, PMnews founders Mario Camilleri and Rita Bonnici have also been charged.  

Grech describes himself as a former gay man who “left homosexuality” and says he volunteers with a gender confusion support group, Core Issues Trust. He is also a member of the evangelist movement River of Love.

The trio arrived in court accompanied by a sizeable group of supporters who crowded the corridor outside the ground floor hall. Before the court hearing, the group, which included River of Love pastor Gordon Manche and ABBA leader Ivan Grech Mintoff, sang evangelical songs and prayed.

A small gathering joined Grech, praying and singing before the court hearing. Video: Jonathan Borg

Grech, 33, from Attard, Camilleri, 44, from Siggiewi and Bonnici, 45, from Qormi face the solitary charge of having allegedly promoted conversion practices in breach of Chapter 567, namely, Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression Act.

Lawyer Emmy Bezzina, assisting Camilleri and Bonnici, informed presiding Magistrate Monica Vella that he had filed an application on Friday morning, explaining that although this case appeared to be simple, it was actually quite complicated.

Although these were summary proceedings, the defence had some 30 witnesses lined up, said Bezzina.

The lawyer also argued that Grech, as a guest on the show, ought not be placed in the same position as the hosts and producers.

For this reason, the lawyer requested a separation of the proceedings.

However, parte civile lawyer Cedric Mifsud rebutted that all three accused had been together on the programme and the hosts had conducted the interview.

Moreover, Bezzina was to indicate the relevance of the “30 witnesses.”

In view of the arguments put forward the court deferred the case to a later date in June, allocating an entire sitting for all witnesses, both for the prosecution and the defence, to testify.

Any witnesses who were currently residing abroad were to be present in court on the appointed day, said the Magistrate, making it clear that no testimony would be heard via video conference.

The case continues.

Inspector Roderick Attard prosecuted. Lawyers Frank Anthony Tabone Arthur Azzopardi and Jeanice Dalli assisted Grech. Lawyer Emmy Bezzina assisted Camilleri and Bonnici. Lawyers Cedric Mifsud and Ian Barbara appeared parte civile.

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