Interracial tensions in Paceville are a serious cause for concern, a lawyer warned the court on Friday, saying that provocation was on the rise.

Lawyer Joe Giglio was making submissions to the court on behalf of his client, the flatmate of one of two men accused of breaking an Albanian man's arm in Paceville last Sunday.

“Unfortunately, I am informed that the facts which could have led to this arraignment are the result of realities in our country today. Tensions between Serbs and Albanians which existed abroad have now spilled over into Paceville where a group of Albanians were provoking Serbs,” he explained, pointing out that the already overloaded officers on duty at the St Julian’s police station were having to contend with this additional problem.

Dr Giglio argued that although the alleged violent episode had taken place on Sunday, the police only arrested the two suspects on Wednesday evening.

“No urgency was felt on the 11 and 12 March,” Dr Giglio continued, “so why keep this man under arrest now?”

The lawyer also noted that the prosecution had apparently waited for the officers who had taken the victim’s report on Sunday to return to duty on Wednesday before proceeding with the arrest.

The men were arraigned on Friday, after the report by the victimled to the discovery of an alleged drug-trafficking ring.

Alexsander Petrovski, 42, a Macedonian plasterer living Msida, was the first to be arraigned, pleading not guilty to his alleged involvement in the conspiracy to traffic cannabis and cocaine.

He was further charged with the aggravated possession and trafficking of cannabis, cannabis resin, cocaine and ecstasy, which offences were allegedly committed within 100 metres of a place frequently visited by youngsters.

Prosecuting Inspector Joseph Xerri informed the court that police had searched an Msida flat on Thursday upon suspicion of drug-trafficking activity.

Inside the room occupied by the accused, the search party had discovered the various drugs. Other illicit substances were also found upon the accused who returned to the flat to find the police there. He reportedly confirmed that the drugs were his, the court was told.

The man pleaded not guilty to the charges. The court, presided over by magistrate Charmaine Galea, froze all the assets of the accused, save a yearly allowance of some €13,000 as allowed by the law.

Shortly after, two other Serbian men, one of them the flatmate of the Macedonian, were escorted into the courtroom facing joint charges in relation to the incident concerning the Albanian man. One of them also faced drug-related charges.

Nenad Anic, 39, a cleaner residing in Mellie─ža, and Nemanja Vucicevic, 31, a security guard residing in Msida, both pleaded not guilty to grievous bodily harm. They were charged with assaulting their victim, breaching the peace and worked as private wardens without the necessary licence.

Mr Anic was separately charged with possessing a knuckleduster, which is a prohibited weapon.

Mr Vucicevic was separately charged with trafficking cannabis and cocaine at a Paceville club, as well as with his involvement in the conspiracy to traffic and the aggravated possession of the drugs, within 100 metres of a place frequently visited by youths.

Both men pleaded not guilty.

Legal aid counsel to Mr Vucicevic, Christopher Chircop, also requested bail, arguing that his client had cooperated with the police and had not tried to escape from Malta “for four whole days.”

After hearing submissions by both defence lawyers and prosecuting Inspector Joseph Xerri, the court turned down the request for bail in respect of Mr Vucicevic in view of the gravity of the charges.

The other co-accused was, however, granted bail against a deposit of €500, a personal guarantee of €5,000 and an order to sign the bail book twice weekly. He was also warned not to approach the victim or other prosecution witnesses.

The court also issued a Protection Order in favour of the Albanian victim.