A magistrate today ordered the immediate release of a man who was arrested over a civil debt and gave him until Monday to file proceedings before the Civil Court which had ordered his arrest.

The court heard how Nazzareno Bartolo, 55, has an outstanding debt with a man who filed a case before the Civil Court invoking an article in the Laws of Malta known as 'warrant in factum' through which someone can ask for the arrest of someone who cannot execute an act which he was contractually obliged to perform.

The Civil Court, presided over by Mr Justice Silvio Meli on Tuesday upheld the request and ordered Mr Bartolo's arrest over a civil debt of some €11,000.
But Mr Bartolo's lawyers, Franco Galea and Stefan Balzan, filed an application before Magistrate Joe Mifsud, claiming illegal arrest.

In his decision, Magistrate Mifsud referred to the European Convention Act which states that no person is to be deprived of his liberty because of his incapability to fulfil a contractual obligation.

The magistrate also noted that it could not deal with the merits of the case, as it was a court of criminal jurisdiction and the debt was one of a civil nature.

Lawyer Kevin Valletta, appearing for the Office of the Attorney General, did not object to the debtor’s request to be released, provided that the debtor's rights are not impinged.

Magistrate Mifsud upheld the arguments and ordered Mr Bartolo's immediate release, provided that he files a civil suit attacking the Civil Court's decision by Monday.

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