Some 20 people who allegedly left threatening messages on social media after a cat was killed close to a Golden Bay restaurant last summer have been questioned by the police and are expected to be arraigned soon.
The lobby group Animal Defence League, which was active in calling for justice after the incident, said the individuals had been called in for questioning between Friday and Saturday and handed court summons.
Photos of the dead cat spread on social media in August, along with what was claimed to be an eyewitness account wrongly accusing a relative of the owners of having been involved.
The relative was not considered a suspect.
Nevertheless, the situation turned ugly as anger grew online and the owners found themselves on the receiving end of a torrent of threatening messages, even forcing them to take the restaurant’s Facebook page offline and disconnect their phones.
Arthur Azzopardi, the lawyer representing the restaurant owners, said he was aware the police were taking action following a criminal complaint by his clients, who accused those who made the comments of harassment and incitement to hatred and violence.
He said the police were still investigating and seeking information from Facebook, adding that more people could face action.
“There were posts saying the restaurant should be burned down or that the owners should be killed,” Dr Azzopardi told the Times of Malta.
“The owners had to seek medical help because they just could not take it anymore. Obviously, we can never agree with the killing of any animal but people have to assume responsibility for what they say and do,” he said.
However, a representative of the Animal Defence League insisted some of the comments had been blown out of proportion and that the police were focusing their energies on the wrong target.
The representative, who asked not to be named, acknowledged that some of the comments were threatening and said the group did not agree with aggressive words but added that others had gone no further than calling the perpetrator a “bastard”.
Only a few of those called in by the police were affiliated with the group, the representative noted.
“Some were so afraid they even fainted,” the representative said.
“Surely the police should have seriously conducted an investigation and caught the person who violently murdered the kitten.”
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