A 71-year-old man who allegedly penned anonymous threatening letters to a number of public figures, also roping in their close family members, was denied bail upon arraignment on Wednesday afternoon. 

Joseph Mary Borg from Valletta was escorted to court under arrest after being allegedly identified as the sender of the threatening mail, some dating as far back as 2016.

He pleaded not guilty to no less than 26 charges concerning insults and threats in respect of Repubblika president Robert Aquilina, his brother PN MP Karol Aquilina, as well as other members of the Opposition bench including Beppe Fenech Adami, Ryan Callus and Jason Azzopardi. 

Other letters were sent to Profs Kevin Cassar, the Court was told. 

Borg was charged with threatening his subjects, causing them to fear violence in their regard and against their families.

He pleaded not guilty and requested bail. 

'Fearful of opening their letterbox'

But that request was strongly objected to by the prosecution.

Such alleged course of conduct amounted to harassment, said prosecuting Inspector Kevin Pulis. 

“Week after week, month after month, year after year” these people had to endure such threatening letters, fearful of opening their letterbox," added the prosecutor. 

Stressing the gravity of the charges, the inspector explained that some of those affected by the anonymous letters were relatives of public people.

The court was told that police protection had also been sought in one case.

Reading through the contents of these letters, police could confirm that they were quite “shocking” (tat-tkexkix).

This was not just a person who happened to be watching some TV show and reacted angrily to something that someone had said - it was no spur-of-the-moment behaviour, went on Inspector Pulis. 

Moreover, the mail was “voluminous” and the police were still gathering evidence even as the arraignment was ongoing, the court, presided over by magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo, heard. 

And since the letters were mailed to the victims’ personal addresses, that meant that the accused knew where his addressees lived, added the prosecutor, highlighting the real fear of tampering that this case presented. 

Besides, some might feel “scared” of going to court to testify in the presence of the person who had targeted them and their children. 

Finally, Borg was also a recidivist as reflected by the charges which also referred to a probation order handed down in 2018. 

Defence lawyer Joseph Calleja rebutted those objections arguing that the man’s home had been searched and evidence preserved, thus reducing the fear of tampering.

Moreover, Borg was an elderly person facing various health issues, went on the lawyer, stressing that the court could provide for adequate measures to ensure that bail conditions were respected. 

And above all, the accused was still presumed innocent at this stage, finished off the lawyer. 

After hearing those submissions, the court turned down the request in view of a real fear of tampering with evidence at this early stage of proceedings and also after taking note of the accused’s criminal record which pointed to his unruly character.

The white-haired man, in brown trousers, brown striped jumper and sleeveless jacket, was escorted quietly out of the courtroom.

Inspectors Pulis and Kurt Farrugia prosecuted. Lawyers Therese Comodini Cachia and Jason Azzopardi appeared parte civile on behalf of all the alleged victims.

Three of the MPs targeted by the mail were attending a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee at the time of the arraignment, while Robert Aquilina and his wife Jeannette attended the hearing. Dr Anne Fenech Adami was also present to represent her husband who was in Parliament. 

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