|EXCLUSIVE | Sunday, 27 April 2008
MAN ALLEGES BRUTAL POLICE BEATING BEFORE DYING
The police did not give any details about the victim’s allegations but when contacted yesterday, Home Affairs and Justice Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici confirmed that the magistrate had interrogated Azzopardi shortly before his death. The minister said Police Commissioner John Rizzo had not informed him about the case and that he was only aware of it through the scant press reports carrying the official police statement. However, after checking with Rizzo yesterday, Mifsud Bonnici confirmed that police officers were also under investigation although no internal inquiry was launched by the Commissioner. “The magisterial inquiry takes precedence, as it covers all the aspects of the case,” the minister said. “People have been interrogated, including police officers.”
On 8 April, Nicholas Azzopardi, a senior Enemalta foreman and father of two, was called in at the police HQ where he faced a gruelling interrogation by two police officers when at one point, he was allegedly manhandled by the officers.
Azzopardi, a well-built man, retaliated by pushing one of the officers against the wall. But a kick by the other officer in his ribcage left him with four broken ribs and a punctured lung. Azzopardi subsequently lost consciousness.
Azzopardi was later found in a ditch by the bastions beneath the police HQ, behind the CID building. That evening, the police issued a statement saying a man had been injured when he jumped over a wall while trying to escape from police headquarters. The incident was reported to have taken place at around 6pm, claiming the man evaded an escorting officer and tried to escape by jumping over a wall.
Civil Protection Department officers were called in to rescue Azzopardi, who was certified to be in danger of losing his life and suffering from very serious injuries. He was taken to the Intensive Therapy Unit at Mater Dei and given his last rites.
Azzopardi died in Ward 1 on 22 April. Three hours earlier Magistrate Tonio Vella had talked to him at length in private, while three senior police officers hung around in the corridor outside.