Prime Minister Robert Abela said on Friday that his conscience is clear after he was placed under a criminal investigation, along with 12 members of the Armed Forces of Malta.
Abela was referring to the criminal complaints filed by civil society NGO Repubblika and PN MP Jason Azzopardi, who say the PM and the crew of AFM patrol boat P52 are responsible for the death of a number of migrants.
The complaints were filed after 12 migrants who had been adrift in Maltese waters were returened to Libya earlier this week.
“The accusation levelled against the AFM is a most serious one,” Abela, said. “They claim that the army carried out the homicide of a number of migrants at sea by not saving them. This means that the 11-man crew, together with the Brigadier, will be investigated for homicide.”
The same MP and Repubblika have also asked the Acting Police Commissioner to investigate the Prime Minister over the same accusation.
Abela said he had gone to the Acting Police commissioner and submitted himself to any investigation that is required. “I was informed that, because of the nature of the accusations, the police have asked the inquiring magistrate to launch an inquiry into the said individuals, including myself,” Abela said, adding that the charge could carry a life sentence.
“I am very disappointed because, at a time when the country finds itself in such a delicate situation, 12 members of our army are being taken off duty. Instead of thanking them for all the times they risked their lives, someone is trying to throw them in jail. Our resources will be further depleted,” the PM said.
“This will not stop us from working in the national interest. The love we have for our country is too great for us to give up in such an important moment. We are further encouraged to keep working for our country. To those who want to see us in jail we say, we will keep working to safeguard the wellbeing of everyone, including their own.”
“My conscience is clear,” Abela continued. “We have done everything in our power to protect our people and all those who live in this country, including irregular migrants. No hindrance will change the position adopted by this government, that in a health emergency this country is not a safe port for migrant disembarkations and that we cannot guarantee rescues at sea.”
Abela said Repubblika has also gone to the European Court of Human Rights asking it to overturn the decision of the Maltese and Italian governments to close their ports. That request was turned down by the ECHR, Abela said.
“Malta has always gone over and above the call of duty when it comes to migration. The current circumstances do not allow us to do more than we are doing,” Abela said, whilst appealing for calm and solidarity.