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Today, I attended a small demonstration held in solidarity with the El Hiblu 3 – three young men who have been charged with trumped up terrorism allegations for heroically diffusing a tense situation aboard a ship full of panicked refugees and ably managing to get everyone to safety on Maltese shores.

The demonstration was held in front of the law courts in Valletta. Activists, linked to each other with handcuffs, voiced their rightfully irate displeasure at the attorney general’s baseless crusade against three young, innocent men whose only motive was to save lives and avoid a scenario in which they would be returned to Libya, a place where refugees such as themselves would have been probably sold off into slavery or subject to extremely degrading treatment in a Libyan prison.

Fittingly, the court’s facade was partially blocked off by unsightly, temporary gates as some sort of refurbishment seems to be going on. I checked the Planning Authority’s Map Server – according to PA/2771/22, the facade is currently undergoing the following treatment:

“Replacement of travertine flooring, construction of ramps in concrete with travertine finished, restoration of railing and planters on the main entrance as well as new lighting design and system on the front façade overlooking Republic Street – and restoration of back loggia including installation of restored ceiling lighting pendants/chandeliers and restoration of wooden apertures overlooking Strait Street.”

While that sounds impressively over the top, as per the usual, I think it is by now a widely known fact that the law courts are going to need a whole lot more than a new ramp to become accessible to those who are most ill-served by the system the courts themselves represent.

When interviewed about the attorney general’s decision to issue a bill of indictment for Abdalla, Amara, and Kader to be charged with terrorism, prime minister Robert Abela pulled back from his habitual bullying of the judiciary to instead give us another timeless rendition of the state-capturing Labour Party’s anthem: another version of the tired, old ‘let the institutions work’.

Of course, when the judiciary takes a decision which somehow makes Abela’s life more complicated, like when it decided to evict a Gozitan family in Qala following decades of machinations from some of Gozo’s most ruthless property speculators, we are treated to a spectacle of grandstanding from our prime minister.

But when activists express their fury about how the attorney general wrongfully issued terrorism charges against three individuals who, according to a litany of testimonies in court, did no harm and effectively turned around a dangerous situation aboard a tense ship, Abela tells us that this is not a political game and that he has faith that the courts will treat the case accordingly.

Hypocrite. At least, when a prime minister lays out his biases like that, you can tell what he’s really saying.

Whenever Abela says that ‘he hopes’ the judiciary will remain vigilant against the speculation of developers seeking to make a buck at the cost of ruining other people’s lives, it means that he does not wish to be made to look like a weak prime minister who does not have any control over, in that particular case, a flagrantly lawless industry. It’s damage control.

Whenever Abela says that he is sure that the courts will treat a case like the one involving the El Hiblu 3 accordingly, he is tacitly implying that this is the way it should go without having to say it outright. In this case, it is politically expedient for him to allow the current course of action in relation to the El Hiblu case to remain as is.

Of course, the worst thrashing of all deserves to be awarded to attorney general Victoria Buttigieg, who sees it fit to prosecute three innocent young men and possibly damn them to a lifetime in prison while failing to address the rampant corruption and criminality at the highest levels of government.

The legions of bought and paid for admirers may not see through this government’s antics, but not everyone is that thick.

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