Two men were fined €3,000 each today after admitting in court to having posted Facebook posts that amounted to racial hatred.

The two men are believed to be the first people ever convicted for inciting racial hatred through posts on social media.

Eric Cuschieri and Christopher Pisani are expected to appeal the penalty. 

The two men posted the comments under a Facebook post showing a man lying in a hospital bed at Mater Dei Hospital. The post was uploaded in February 2015 to a group called Daqshekk għall-immigrazzjoni llegali f'Malta ['No more illegal immigration to Malta'].  

It read: "This black is taking a Maltese spot at Mater Dei Hospital, paid for by you and me and personally meeting with ministers."  

Comments beneath the post ranged from the inane - "LOL LOL LOL" - to anger towards politicians and outright racism. 

Mr Cuschieri wrote that he would "put acid in his [the patient's] drip" while Mr Pisani urged people to "burn him". 

Other people suggested "cutting his wire" or "pulling the ***king pluck [sic] out" and burning the man's bed sheets. 

"The courts sent a very clear message today," said Integra Foundation director Maria Pisani. "Inciting racial hatred online is a crime, and I am very happy that police took action and prosecuted." 

Police have historically been reluctant to press charges related to comments posted on social media due to concerns that it could be hard to prove that the person commenting was actually the social network account holder. 

Nevertheless, police arraigned a man who works as a prison warden at Corradino Correctional Facility on similar charges last February, after the man posted "I hope its [sic] burning with them inside" beneath a Facebook post about a refugee shelter being burnt in Sweden. 

The man was acquitted on a technicality, because his comment was directed towards people living overseas. 

Existing racial hatred laws date back to 2002 and only apply to comments directed to people in Malta. In delivering his judgement, magistrate Aaron Bugeja had said his hands were tied and that it was up to parliament to update the law. 

Three weeks later, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici said that the government would seek to update racial hatred laws to ensure that they did not only cover comments directed to people in Malta.