Daniel Holmes’s wife hopes her husband will be set free following an appeal decision on Thursday in a case which has propelled cannabis legislation into the limelight.
“My husband has been locked away and forced into a criminal system for a few cannabis plants. I just hope and pray he will be allowed to be free,” Marzena Holmes said as she fought back tears yesterday.
She was speaking at a protest march along Republic Street, Valletta, organised by Alternattiva Demokratika and drug rehabilitation NGO Mid-Dlam Għad-Dawl.
The demonstration attracted some 120 protesters who carried banners calling for the Welshman’s immediate release.
Mr Holmes, now 35, was arrested in June 2006, for growing five cannabis plants which he maintains were for his own personal use. In November 2011, he was sentenced to 10-and-a-half years in prison and an additional year if he does not pay a €23,000 fine.
Ms Holmes said her husband had more than paid for his crimes, insisting he could not be detained any longer.
Our daughter doesn’t even know her own father, and all for some cannabis
Asked what realistic expectations she had for her husband’s appeal decision, Ms Holmes said all she wanted was for her daughter to have a father again. “This has been a punishment on his whole family. Our daughter doesn’t even know her own father and all for some cannabis. This is just sick,” she said as her two-year-old daughter Rainbow tugged at a banner baring her father’s name.
The protesters yesterday carried placards which read: ‘Let him go’, ‘Punishment does not fit the crime’ and ‘Stop the injustice’ as they shuffled along the capital’s main street chanting ‘Free, free Daniel Holmes’.
Moviment Graffitti spokesman Andre Callus lambasted the legal proceedings which led to Mr Holmes’s incarceration. Speaking into a megaphone on the courthouse steps, he described the case as a “miscarriage of justice”.
“Daniel Holmes is a man who has been deprived of the most fundamental of human liberties, and all for smoking some cannabis. This is shameful for our country’s legal system,” he said.
A retired passer-by who joined the protest after abandoning his mid-morning window shopping said he could not believe such penalties could ever be given for recreational drug use.
On Times of Malta’s TV programme Times Talk last Tuesday Justice Parliamentary Secretary Owen Bonnici said the Cabinet would be considering a proposal by a justice reform commission to stop treating personal drug use as a crime.
However, the National Commission on the Abuse of Drugs, Alcohol and other Dependencies responsible for redrafting the National Drugs Policy said that it was not considering decriminalising drugs.
Instead, it said it favoured a scheme whereby only first time offenders arrested in possession for personal use would not face judicial proceedings.