Updated 8.30pm with PL statement below -
The alleged sabotage of a migrant boat by the Armed Forces of Malta was instead a standard rescue procedure, according to fresh evidence submitted by civil society group Repubblika to the courts on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, the NGO Alarm Phone revealed a call to its hotline from a group of migrants stranded at sea, claiming that an AFM crew cut the cable of their stranded boat and told them: "I leave you to die in the water."
Civil society group Repubblika subsequently made a criminal complaint against the crew of AFM patrol boat P52, sparking a magisterial inquiry into the incident.
However, Times of Malta is informed that Repubblika has now submitted evidence that appears to go against claims that the crew sabotaged the boat.
It is understood the evidence tallies with the joint version of events given by the 11 crew members, that the migrant manning the outboard engine on the dinghy had been directed to pull what is known as a 'kill switch', to shut off the engine. This is believed to be a standard procedure in rescues of this type to ensure the safety of all parties involved.
Contacted on Tuesday, Repubblika said it has two objectives: all lives in danger must be saved, and the truth must be made known.
"We act in the interests of these two objectives. We provide any information we have or acquire to the magistrate and the institutions.”
However, a spokeswoman for Alarm Phone said those on board had been left with a different perception.
"According to the report of the people on the boat it was definitely not perceived as part of a rescue operation," she said.
According to the call to Alarm Phone, which Times of Malta has heard, the distressed group of migrants feared they had been left to die.
The person making the call said: "We have an emergency here... Malta military came and cut the cable... The Malta military knows the water is in the boat right now... They say not anybody is coming to Malta... When he moved, he said, 'I leave you to die in the water.'"
Court experts visited AFM bases on Monday. It is not clear if they have also attempted to take evidence from the 66 migrants who were in the boat and were later rescued and brought to Malta.
On Sunday, Times of Malta quoted lawyer Hermann Mula, who is representing the 11 crew and insists his clients followed all the rules of engagement to the letter.
A blow to the opposition leader's credibility - PL
The Labour Party said the developments were a blow to the credibility of the opposition leader, who, it said, had made the allegations against the AFM his own.
"Whoever made the allegations his own without being aware of the facts cannot be credible when he speaks on issues of major importance to the country," the party said.
It regretted that at a time when the country should have been united, there were a few who had launched unfair attacks against those who had saved thousands of lives.
Instead of distancing himself from the allegations, the opposition leader had made them his own and did not condemn those who made them, the PL said.