NEWS | Sunday, 28 September 2008

Pressure piles on Malta as BBC reports Steven Marsden’s case

Three months after being raised by MaltaToday, the case of Steven Marsden – a British national held in prison for two years after being wrongly accused of importing ecstasy pills – has been taken up by the British national broadcaster, the BBC.
It was hailed by the Maltese police as the largest ever ecstasy haul but only two months later laboratory studies showed the pills were a legal ecstasy substitute. But two years later, Steven Marsden is languishing in prison.
The case was first brought to the attention of the Maltese media on 22 June, when MaltaToday reported that Fair Trial International – a charity defending the rights of those facing charges in a country other than their own – denounced the Maltese authorities for pursuing this case despite Steven Marsden having committed no offence under Maltese law.
Despite questions sent by MaltaToday, there was no official reaction from the Attorney General’s office on the serious allegations made by the British charity.
But pressure is mounting on the Maltese government after the British national broadcaster took up Steven Marsden’s case in a news feature screened on Wednesday.
“It’s a beautiful holiday island but for Steven Marsden it’s been his prison for two years”
Despite evidence showing that Marsden was not importing illegal drugs, “there is no sign, no bail and no release,” reported BBC newscaster Sally Challoner.
Steven Marsden’s daughter Emma Bartholomew promised that “No matter how long it takes or what I have to do, I won’t stop until my father is released from this horrible place.”
Lawyer Joe Brincat who was also interviewed by BBC described the case a travesty of justice and announced that he will present a case in the European Court of human rights.
“I have been practising in the criminal courts for the last 38 years and Mr Marsden’s case is a parody of justice,” Brincat said.
The British national was wrongly accused of importing “the largest ever ecstasy haul” in Malta who has been detained in prison despite evidence showing that the 50,000 pills were not illegal in Malta at the time.
According to Fair Trails International the Maltese authorities “are desperate to secure a conviction for something at any cost,” FTI claimed.
FTI claims the pills did not contain MDMA, the chemical found in ecstasy. “The pills are in fact called mCPP and sold as an ecstasy substitute of sorts, but contain nothing unlawful under Maltese law”.
MCCP was not illegal in Malta when Marsden was apprehended but the chemical was outlawed in May 2007 through a legal notice. Metachlorophenylpiperazine (mCPP) is a psychoactive substance that appeared in 2004 on the black market of illicit substances in France and other European countries.
The substance had very limited success among partygoers because it is reputed to induce headaches but there is little evidence of long term damage caused by the drug.
Although still legal in most European countries and the USA, the substance was recently banned in Denmark and Belgium.
On June 9 the law courts rejected Marsden’s plea to nullify charges brought against him because the imported pills were not illegal at the time. The defence argued that since the imported pills were not against the law, there could be no charge of trafficking. But the court decreed that this was “a convoluted way of reasoning.”
“Even if the accused is correct in stating that the actual importation did not involve prohibited drugs, this does not debar the Attorney General from charging the accused with conspiracy on the basis of other evidence, independently of what was the subject matter of the actual importation,” a judgement handed down by the criminal court in June states.
Bail was initially granted in July 2006 but then revoked on application by the Attorney General and has since been repeatedly denied on the grounds that Marsden might try to abscond and that the charges against him are serious. The international lobby claims that the prosecution has continually postponed court proceedings, thus keeping Steven Marsden in prison for nearly two years while trial dates have been cancelled.

Any comments?
If you wish your comments to be published in our Letters pages please click button below.
Please write a contact number and a postal address where you may be contacted.





MaltaToday News
28 September 2008

Pressure piles on Malta as BBC reports Steven Marsden’s case

The travelling circus: Casa and Busuttil torn between Strasbourg and Brussels

Commissioner Borg lets Malta wriggle out of the net

Siggiewi council threatens to close road for Polidano’s trucks

Immigration: Efforts to convene Libya and Italy get dimmer

How safe is safe food?

Pact forces immigration onto political agenda

Asylum seekers go back home with new hopes

Mismanagement at dockyards was deliberate

Copyright © MediaToday Co. Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016, Malta, Europe
Managing editor Saviour Balzan | Tel. ++356 21382741 | Fax: ++356 21385075 | Email