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NEWS | Wednesday, 15 July 2009

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Man liberated on appeal from khat charges

The Court of Criminal Appeal revoked a judgement by the Court of Magistrates which found a man guilty of importing the drug khat, which had not been illegal at the time of alleged offence.
Khalif Id Ahmed was found guilty on 8 May, 2009, and sentenced to a six-month jail term and €466 fine for importing the drugs cathine and cathinone, in the form of khat, which are leaves that can be chewed for their euphoric effect.
Khat is a plant native to East Africa and the Arabian peninsula, and is said to cause excitement, loss of appetite and euphoria. It is a controlled/illegal substance in many countries.
While cathine and cathinone are illegal substances in themselves, khat leaves were not illegal to import at the time of the offence, which took place in 2006.
Ahmed was stopped at Malta International Airport on the night between the 21 and 22 July, 2006 upon his arrival by air from Amsterdam. He was carrying a quantity of khat plants. In his statement to the Police he admitted that he had brought the plants into Malta to put it in his fridge and take it for himself and part of it was to give as a present to his Somali friends living in the Marsa Open Centre.
He stated that only Somalis eat Khat and that he had been given the Khat by his relative Nur Mohammed in Holland and he did not know that it was prohibited in Malta. Had he known that it was illegal, Ahmed had told police, he would not have have brought it to Malta but left it in Holland.
But Judge Joe Galea Debono asked whether the authorities might want to consider whether an amendment to Malta’s drug laws is warranted at to prohibit the use of this practice by Somali immigrants into this country who share similar customs and habits.
He referred his court judgement to the ministers of social policy and home affairs.
The case was similar to the Khayre case, who spent two years in custody over the importation of khat, when it was not even illegal.
He was finally liberated on appeal on appeal by Chief Justice Vincent De Gaetano.
In the Khayre case, De Gaetano found that there was no evidence to suggest that appellant Aweys Maani Khayre’s mind was in any way specifically directed to the drug cathinone or to the drug cathine. The Court was satisfied that, in line with the social and cultural habits of his country of origin, he simply intended to provide his friends in Malta with a plant to chew, even if that plant would have, as he must certainly have known that it would have, a stimulating effect on whoever consumed it.
For these reasons the Court had allowed the appeal, revoked the judgment of the Court of Magistrates and acquitted Khayre of all the charges preferred against him.
Likewise, Galea Debono said there was no evidence to suggest that Khalif Id Ahmed intended to import into Malta the drugs cathine and cathinone as such, but that, in line with the social customs of his country of origin, he intended to provide himself and his co-nationals in Malta with a plant to chew.


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