One of three young men facing piracy charges in what is known as the El Hiblu case appears to have gone missing, a court heard on Wednesday morning.

Abdalla Bari, Amara Kromah and Abdul Kader stand accused of having commandeered a ship and threatening its crew after they were rescued at sea in 2019. They allegedly feared the ship - the El Hiblu - would take them back to Libya. Instead they sailed it to Malta, where it was boarded by Maltese soldiers.

Their case has drawn widespread attention, with calls for the charges to be dropped since the accused were aged just 15, 16 and 19 at the time. 

When the case was due to resume in court on Wednesday morning only two of the accused turned up. Kader was missing. 

Prosecuting inspector Omar Zammit said that Kader had not signed his bail book since early August. He did not collect his [court] summons at the last sitting on June 28.

"Why is the court only finding out now?" Magistrate Nadine Lia asked.

"When did you last speak to your client?" she asked defence lawyers Neil Falzon and Gianluca Cappitta.

Falzon said that Kader last spoke to him via WhatsApp messages a few days after the last sitting. Around mid-August he received an email from the probation officer saying that she could not get in touch with him. 

Falzon said he tried to reach him on his phone but had no luck.

Replying to further questions from the magistrate, co-accused Amara said Kader had been living in the same residence but in a different room. They met only occasionally, sometimes at the weekend. 

Then around August 4/5 he walked past Kader's room and noticed it was empty. 

The other youth, Abdalla lived elsewhere. 

The court minuted all the information and called on the police commissioner to carry out inquiries as to why the court was only told now that Kader had not signed the bail book for at least six weeks. 

All three accused were bound to sign three times weekly. 

The prosecutor then requested the magistrate to authorise a European Arrest Warrant against Kader. 

That request was upheld. 

Zammit also informed the court that police would be seeking an international arrest warrant too. 

The prosecution then rested its case.  

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