A prisoner who made claims about systematic terror, fear and torture at the Corradino Correctional Facility has been placed in solitary confinement and banned from communicating with anyone outside prison.
Brian Vella, 41, filed a fresh application in the Criminal Court on Monday claiming more inhumane treatment sparked by last week's claims and asked the court to order his transfer to the Forensic Ward at Mount Carmel Hospital.
He said that after he filed his first application last week, his cell was searched in his absence and he was stopped from using the prison telephone to communicate with his relatives. He was also transferred to a division where prisoners are usually sent as a punishment where he was placed in solitary confinement. He is only allowed to emerge from his cell for one hour a day.
“All this was done in retaliation for the complaint I filed last week,” Vella said in his application before the same inquiring magistrate.
His lawyer, Jason Grima, said his client was “in imminent physical and psychological danger” and asked for his immediate transfer out of the Corradino Correctional Facility.
Vella, who is serving life in jail over a double murder, last week asked the courts to launch a magisterial inquiry into what he claims is "inhumane treatment" he and other prisoners were facing on a daily basis. He also drew attention to the possibility that a crime was committed within the facility in September 2018.
Vella has been in jail for 21 years. He says the management of CCF was never as bad as under the present administration.
“A systematic campaign of terror, fear and torture reigns inside the CCF, carried out by the prison guards with the blessing and permission of prison director Alex Dalli and the management,” Vella claimed.
He also said he was ready to confirm on oath that the “torture chair” mentioned in the media a few weeks ago truly exists and had been used several times.
The existence of this chair had originally been denied by Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri. He later acknowledged that in an incident that took place before he became minister, a prisoner had once been tied to a chair upon the recommendation of a doctor, who judged him a danger to himself, the staff and other prisoners.
Vella claimed that on September 24, 2018, he and his cellmates saw prison guards taking out a dead inmate from the facility and that this remained secret, “showing that it was most probably something illicit and illegal”.
The prison warders involved knew that Vella had seen them and started a “campaign of persecution” against him through the restriction of privileges, removal of his visitation rights and the transfer to another division. He was also stopped from working in carpentry, losing out on €300 a month.
Vella said this disciplinary action was frivolous and he was not even being given the opportunity to make his case, in breach of his fundamental human rights. This “abuse of power” by the prison warders was causing inmates “psychological torture”.
'We have recordings' - Correctional Services Agency
A spokesperson for the Correctional Services Agency has said that the agency would be fighting Vella's claims in court.
"The agency categorically denies these allegations," the spokesman said.
The agency issues another brief statement on Monday, saying Vella's allegations were untrue, that it had recordings to prove it and that it would be responding further in court.
Conditions within CCF have come under scrutiny in recent months after a spate of prisoner deaths, leading civil society group Repubblika to demand Dalli’s removal.
Vella was sentenced to life in prison over the double murder of his neighbours at their Santa Luċija home in 2000, 79-year-old Gerald Grima and his 63-year-old wife Josephine.
Dominic Bonnici was sentenced to 30 years in jail for his involvement in the double murder. The two robbers had stolen €460 worth of items.
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