(Adds Frida Cauchi, Herman Bonaci Productions reactions)

Veteran actor John Suda, 64, of St Julian's was this afternoon granted bail after he pleaded not guilty to committing violent indecent assault on a 22-year-old woman from St Julian's.

Mr Suda was granted bail against a deposit of €2,000 and a personal guarantee of €3,000.

The prosecution, led by Inspector Joseph Busuttil and Paula Ciantar, told the court the accused had approached the woman through Facebook, after she had been shortlisted for a television series he authored.

He offered her one-to-one training for the role and she accepted.

The prosecution said the session was held in Fgura, and after asking her to rephrase the lines, he locked the room and kept the key in his pocket. He then blindfolded the woman and asked her to strip to her underwear, "to control her inhibitions and be a better actor".

Eventually they both ended up naked, and the accused put her hand on his private part as he asked her to give an accurate description of what she felt. At one point, she burst out crying and he stopped the session when he became aware of this.

Defence lawyer Bernard Grech argued that his client was preparing the woman for a part in which she would seduce men through sexual advances, parts of which would be played semi-nude.

He said his client had tried to cancel the appointment with the woman but she did not see the message and he was late for the appointment.

Dr Grech said Mr Suda continually told the woman to stop if she felt uneasy or uncomfortable at any time. In fact, he stopped immediately when he saw her crying. His client, he said, even denied placing the woman’s hand on his private part but said she did when he asked her to.

He claimed she consented throughout.

The prosecutors said they contacted series producers Herman Bonaci and Frieda Cauchi and the latter told them she never heard of such auditions.

However, the accused claimed he had carried out similar auditions even with Ms Cauchi herself.

However, in a statement this evening, Ms Cauchi categorically denied she ever held any auditions whatsoever with Mr Suda, “let alone any such auditons as were described during the above mentioned proceedings”.

She said that not only were there no such sessions or auditions that came near to doing anything remotely similar to the events described, she had always been adamant that drama rehearsals, auditions or sessions had to be free of any such acts, which were not only undesirable but absolutely unacceptable.

In another statement, Hermann Bonaci Productions said they had no knowledge whatsoever of the events described in the proceedings.

“What is more, Hermann Bonaci Productions would have never approved any such behaviour because it goes directly against the ethical code of conduct and ethos of this drama company.

Both Ms Cauchi and the company reserved the right to take action against any person for damage they may suffer as a consequence of the claims.

In a post on Facebook earlier this evening, Mr Suda said that because of the "sensational way" the media had reported and dealt with the case, he informed the producers of the play Faith, Hope and Charity he would be dropping out of the event, for which  he had shaved his beard.

He said he was doing this with sadness and wished the production the best success.

“It is in such moments that one realises who are the real friends,” he said.

The production, part of the Malta Arts Festival, is being held at St Elmo in Valletta between Wednesday and August 2.

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