Activists and former president Marie-Louise Coleuiro Preca held a protest outside the law courts on Monday, renewing their call for terrorist charges to be dropped against three youths who stand accused of having commandeered a ship and threatened the crew four years ago.

Amara, Kader, and Abdalla face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of hijacking the ship El Hiblu in 2019. They were 15, 16 and 19 years old at the time when they were arrested and charged. 

Court proceedings against them are still in the initial stages, with the compilation of evidence,  leaving the three young men in a constant wait, the activists said. 

They said that despite calling on the Attorney General to drop the charges, there had been no reaction. 

“They were held in a prison for adults for seven months. While today they are outside, they are still having to wait, minute by minute, hour by hour, year by year,” activist and lecturer Maria Pisani said.

“They might as well be still staring at the walls of their cells, as every day we take their future away from them,” she said. “Their lives are on hold. I cannot think of a bigger cruelty or injustice than this abuse of power.”

In 2019, Amara, Kader, and Abdalla were among 108 migrants who boarded a nine-meter dinghy from Libya to cross the Mediterranean. As the rubber boat started to deflate and sink, a merchant vessel, El Hiblu 1, rescued them. 

Shortly after the rescue, the vessel was instructed to take the migrants back to Libya. 

But migrants on board ordered the crew to sail the ship to Malta instead. The ship entered Maltese waters on March 28 2019, when it was boarded by Maltese soldiers.  Amara, Kader, and Abdalla were arrested and subsequently charged, with prosecutors claiming they were the ringleaders when the ship was taken over.

The three are pleading not guilty and say they only acted as mediators and translators for the rest of the ship’s passengers. 

The case had attracted international attention, with human rights advocates  calling for the charges to be dropped. 

Pisani said the public should take action and voice the injustice suffered by the youths. 

Activists present on Monday morning calling for El Hiblu charges to be dropped. Photo: Jonathan BorgActivists present on Monday morning calling for El Hiblu charges to be dropped. Photo: Jonathan Borg

“I call on every one to be the voice of these young men, and demand that these charges are dropped,” she said. 

Silence from AG regarding open letter to withdraw charges 

President Emeritus Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, who also addressed the protest, said the three had been in a legal limbo for three years.

“When they arrived in Malta, two of them were still children, but they were treated like criminals, and thrown into prison.Like any other children, they deserve to live a peaceful life  and to have their rights protected.”

She said that if Malta truly believed in protecting human rights, the charges against all three should be dropped immediately. 

“I call on the Attorney General to drop the charges. I also ask her to take note of the open letter which thousands had signed, calling for freedom for these young men, and yet up until today, we never received even an acknowledgment.”

Maria Pisani on Monday. Photo: Jonathan BorgMaria Pisani on Monday. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Coleiro Preca said the young men continued to face injustice and have their lives stolen from them. 

Her comments were echoed by David Yambio from NGO Refugees in Libya, who said Amara, Kader and Adballa face terrorist charges but for the past four years had proven to be law-abiding citizens. 

"One has even become a father, and takes responsibility of taking his child to school and providing for her - those are not the actions of a terrorist," he said. 

"We are here asking for justice, human rights, and protection to those of us who have been denied the right to asylum and to be recognized."

The protest was endorsed by 22 other organisations.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us