Din l-art helwa, jew qabar mbajjad?
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” Matthew 23:27-28
An eloquent indication of just how morally rotten and corrupt are the networks of power that ultimately control din l-art helwa, is given to us by the confirmation that no charges will be brought against those lawyers and other go-betweens involved in the attempts to buy the silence of the family of a 14-year-old girl from Nadur, Gozo, at the centre of rape allegations.
In a letter sent to The Sunday Times reacting to an article published last November, police said they had investigated the case and found no “breaches of the law”. The girl’s family, however, say that neither they, nor other key witnesses who could confirm the facts, were ever interviewed by the police regarding allegations that no less than two attempts were made to convince them not to pursue the matter.
Last September, The Sunday Times had courageously revealed that a lawyer, close relatives of the accused, as well as a priest who acted as an intermediary, had persuaded the victim’s mother to sign a contract stating that members of her family would not take the case to court in return for €7,000 in “psychological support”. The victim’s family, the newspaper states, were never given a copy of the contract.
The four defendants, all under house arrest, are Peter Paul Said, Josef Said – who stand accused of rape – and Mark Lorry Said and Peter Paul Debono – who were charged with her defilement. The contract did not prevent the victim’s family from pressing ahead. On the day the men were due to be arraigned, however, according to the mother, two lawyers – one from Gozo and another from Malta – approached her with the intention of coming to “an arrangement”.
The girl’s mother told The Sunday Times that she told the police inspector in charge of the investigation about the contract as well as of the second attempt to stop the claims from reaching the courts. The police neither confirmed nor denied the woman’s claim. They merely said that police reports are not public documents.
Chief Justice Vincent DeGaetano brought up the issue of interference when, last October, he imposed stricter bail conditions on the defendants, arguing that there appeared to have been “manoeuvres by people who had an interest to see that the case does not reach the courts”. “It seems that,” he added, “before the accused were charged in court, money changed hands in order for there to be a withdrawal of the complaint (in respect of the accused bearing the Said surname)”.
Labour MP Evarist Bartolo, who made PQs about the case to the minister of Home Affairs (including a request to name the lawyers concerned), told The Sunday Times that he thought “… the law is being used to protect those who are strong and powerful rather than those who are weak and vulnerable. It continues to protect the culture of omertá (code of silence) we have in our country. […] It’s symptomatic of a sick society”. The honourable Minister declined to comment, saying there were pending court proceedings.
See Mark Micallef’s report “No charges over attempts to buy rape girl’s silence.
Key witnesses insist they have not been interviewed”, The Sunday Times, January 4, 2009 http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20090104/local/no-charges-over-attempts-to-buy-rape-girls-silence