Updated at 4pm

Two soldiers have pleaded not guilty to the racially-motivated murder of a migrant and the attempted murder of two others in Ħal Far last month.

Moreover, they have also been charged with a hit-and-run incident which happened in the same spot on February 1, when a migrant from Chad had sustained grievous injuries.

Francesco Fenech, a 21-year-old from Marsascala and Lorin Scicluna, 22 and from Paola were arraigned this morning before duty Magistrate Josette Demicoli.

The defendants were accused of committing a racially-motivated murder, inciting hatred on the basis of race, firing shots in a public place with an unlicensed weapon, and making use of a car without registration plates as well as committing crimes they were supposed to prevent.

Lassana Cisse.Lassana Cisse.

Their charge sheet also lists an accusation that the two killed birds and cats. 

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Mr Scicluna was also accused of breaching bail conditions related to a separate case.

Police inspector Keith Arnaud told the court that Mr Scicluna had been arrested on Friday morning, while Mr Fenech was apprehended on Saturday.

“There was evidence that they had been on the scene of the crime, fired the shots and had been previously involved in the hit-and run incident,” Mr Arnaud told the court.

Prior to asking them if they were pleading guilty or not, Magistrate Demicoli explained the nature of the charges to the accused and noted that in case of conviction they could be sent to jail for life.

While Mr Fenech remained composed, Mr Scicluna looked very emotional especially when he saw his mother, who was present in the jam-packed hall, and who could not hold back her tears.

Lawyer Giannella de Marco appeared for Francesco Fenech while Kris Busietta and Julian Farrugia appeared for Lorin Scicluna. Inspector Arnaud and Trevor Micallef prosecuted.

No request for bail was made and both were remanded in custody.

Lassana Cisse, a 33-year-old man from the Ivory Coast, was killed on April 6 after he was shot at by people inside a moving car. Two other men, also migrants - Ibrahim Bah, 27 from Guinea and Mohammed Jallow, 28, from Gambia - were also shot at from a white Toyota Starlet.

On Saturday, police announced that they had arrested two prime suspects in the murder. Sources told Times of Malta that one of the suspects had admitted to targeting the migrants “just because they were black".

The two suspects were brought to court on Sunday morning. Video: Mark Zammit Cordina