Two men accused of murdering Sion Grech and dumping her body in a Marsa field have been found not guilty of the crime.
A nine-person jury cleared both Ismael Habesh and Faical Mohouachi of wilful homicide, in a verdict delivered on Friday evening.
The two men were also acquitted of crimes related to unlawful possession of a weapon and carrying a knife without a police licence - charges that prosecutors withdrew after realising that the offences did not exist in law at the time of the murder.
Grech's decomposed body was found in Marsa in April 2005. She was just 20 years old. An autopsy determined that she had been stabbed at least 17 times.
Habesh and Mohouachi were first questioned by police in connection with the crime that same month, but the investigation dragged on for years.
Jurors heard police testify that a woman who knew Grech had told the police in 2008 that she had seen Habesh and another man beat Grech on the night of her murder, then carry her into a field.
A police officer testified that the woman, Josephine Rapinett, had subsequently led investigators to the exact spot where the body was found.
That testimony was however somewhat contradicted a medico-legal expert who testified that there was no sign of a disturbance in the spot where Grech's body was found and that she had possibly been killed elsewhere.
UItimately, jurors found Habesh not guilty of homicide by a count of 7-2 and Mahouachi by 8-1.
“Today the jury has spoken. Our clients have gone through this injustice because the prosecution relied on the version of this woman who wasn't believed,” defence lawyer Edward Gatt said following the verdict.
“Habesh suffered enormous injustice because the principle of fair trial within reasonable time was totally eradicated from the foundations.”
Habesh was however found guilty of handling stolen property, in the form of a red Ford Escort.
Defence lawyer Gatt argued that his client should not be jailed for a theft that occurred 18 years ago. Habesh had reformed his life since then, he added.
Prosecutors asked the court to jail Habesh for eight years for that crime, arguing that he was a recidivist.
Judge Aaron Bugeja sentenced him to three years effective jail time and ordered him to pay €7889 in court expert expenses linked to the stolen vehicle
Lawyers Edward Gatt and Ishmael Psaila represented Habesh. Mahouachi was represented by lawyer Simon Micallef Stafrace. Lawyer Roberto Montalto appeared parte civile on behalf of the Grech family.
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