The campaign group working to free three young Africans known as the ‘El Hiblu 3’ has delivered an open letter to Malta’s Attorney General. The migrants from Guinea and Ivory Coast were arrested and accused in Malta of having committed multiple crimes -- including acts of terrorism and hijacking a ship.
Almost 1,000 people have signed an open letter to Malta’s Attorney General Dr Victoria Buttigieg. The letter was delivered on September 29 by members of the Free the El Hiblu 3 campaign in the Maltese capital Valletta.
The letter begins by explaining the context in which the three young men were arrested. "On March 28, 2019," reads the letter, "the merchant vessel El Hiblu 1 arrived in Malta and three teenagers were arrested and accused of having committed multiple crimes, including acts of terrorism, threatening a crew and hijacking a ship."
The three teenagers, named as Amara, Kader and Abdalla, who were just 15, 16 and 19 at the time of their initial arrest were imprisoned for almost eight months before being released on bail in November 2019.
Since then, as the international human rights NGO Amnesty International has explained to InfoMigrants in the past, the three young men have been on trial in Malta and subject to fairly strict bail conditions which necessitates them signing in at a police station at a certain time each evening, increasing the difficulty for their daily lives.
The Maltese law courts have held monthly hearings since the three’s bail began.
In the open letter, the campaign members point out some of the problems they perceive in the way the trial has been conducted.
'Drop the charges'
For instance, at the hearings, "police and military officials, as well as the crew members of the merchant vessel were promptly given the opportunity to testify." In contrast, rescued witnesses who might have spoken on the young men's behalf were not called by the Maltese prosecution for "two years," according to the campaigners.
The letter states that when these testimonies were finally heard, they "confirmed what we knew. Abdalla, Amara and Kader did not commit any crimes!"
Now the pre-hearings in the trial are drawing to a close, and the campaign has taken this opportunity to ask the attorney general to dismiss the trial and drop the charges immediately.
The letter states that "instead of being prosecuted, the El Hiblu 3 should be celebrated for their actions in preventing the return of 108 people to Libya."
Signatories to the letter number more than ten members of the European Parliament including Tineke Strik from the Dutch Green Left (GroenLinks) party and Pietro Bartolo, the Italian doctor from Lampedusa who is now also an MEP; as well as academics from various universities and founders and members of NGOs.
The organization Resqship one of many signatories
The German private rescue organization Resqship was just one of the signatories to the letter. In its press release about the open letter, Resqship wrote that more than 100 organizations had signed the letter as well as 900 people from civil society.
Resqship explained that it is the Maltese state prosecutors who are to decide which charges to actually press against the three young men, and whether or not there is even a case to be heard. That is why they are hoping, with the open letter, to convince them to drop all charges and end the trial.
The letter has also been supported by Amnesty International, which has been running its own campaign for the El Hiblu 3, and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE).