Two men were remanded in protective custody on Friday after they were charged with setting fire to a Qormi shopfront last month.
Appearing in front of magistrate Victor George Axiaq, police Inspectors Jeffrey Scicluna, Mario Xiberras and Roderick Agius accused Brooks Lia, 48, from Qawra and Damiano Alfio Ranissi Torissi, an Italian national who resides in St Paul’s Bay, of setting fire to the shopfront in Triq il-Ħammier on August 29.
Lia was charged with arson and damages and with endangering the lives of people residing in nearby buildings. Torissi was also charged with being an accomplice. Both pleaded not guilty.
Appearing parte civile on behalf of the victims, lawyers Karl Micallef and Edward Debono requested a ban on the publication of the victims’ names as well as the name of the shop to prevent their business from being associated with crime.
Defence lawyer Arthur Azzopardi objected to the request, saying there was no provision for such a request in the law. The court upheld the request.
Inspector Sciberras presented the court with pictures and CCTV footage of the accused at the scene of the crime and testified that localisation technology had placed both of the accused’s mobile phones a corner away from the shop just moments after the fire had been started.
The prosecution objected to granting bail to Lia for fear of tampering with evidence and because of the ongoing investigations which are still underway in an attempt to pin down the mastermind.
Lia’s lawyer Mario Mifsud said that while he did not wish to diminish the gravity of the offence, his client was not being shown goodwill even though he had cooperated fully with the police.
“We are sending a message to every street criminal out there not to cooperate with the police, because they’ll come to court and have bail objected to,” Mifsud said.
Interjecting, Debono said that had Lia wished to cooperate, he would have given the police the name of the person who asked him to commit the crime.
The court refused bail and remanded Lia in custody.
Assisted by lawyer Arthur Azzopardi, Torrisi did not request bail.
He refused to answer the questions put to him by the court and would not even confirm his name.
Azzopardi entered the plea of not guilty on his client’s behalf.
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